University of Arizona freshman Kenzie Fowler has proven her career did not peak at Canyon Del Oro High School.
Fowler has established herself as the #1 pitcher on the highly-ranked UofA softball team.
With a record of 33-6, and an ERA of 1.25, she has made the transition to "higher learning" very smoothly. A fireballer, she's also struck out 312 batters in 241 innings, an average of almost 12 per nine innings. The Wildcats stood at 46-11 overall, 23-3 at home.
Fowler was recently named "Player of the Week." Shortly afterwards, she pitched a perfect game.
"Being 'Player of the Week' was such an honor and I was so proud to represent U of A," Fowler said. "Our team is making great strides right now at the right time of the season and if we can keep playing with confidence, I think we can make a pretty good run."
The Wildcats host Brigham Young in the NCAA Super Regional this Friday through Saturday.
"U of A softball has been a powerhouse ever since I was a little girl, so the expectations are high, and we are expected to win," Fowler said.
Expectations were high during Fowler's senior year at CDO. The Dorados won their third consecutive state 4A-I title in softball in 2009. Fowler was named Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year. Max Preps named her "Athlete of the Decade" for Arizona for 2000-2009.
Winning is certainly nothing new to Kenzie Fowler. She keeps finding herself on championship-caliber teams.
"She works hard for everything," said CDO pitching coach Gale Bundrick. "She doesn't take things for granted.
"I worked with her since she was nine years old. She's probably one of the most grounded individuals I've ever known."
Has Bundrick been surprised by Fowler's success as a college freshman?
"I'm not surprised she's doing well as a freshman," Bundrick said. "I am surprised she's doing so well against Pac-10 teams." Fowler was 12-4 in the league, with a 1.90 ERA.
"The transition from high school to college is definitely a life-changing experience," Fowler said. "I've just tried to make the best out of every situation. Being a freshman, new to the college scene, I've tried to stay as focused and organized as I can."
The road to higher learning is just another challenge Fowler has hurdled. Her most difficult one may have happened when she was still in high school, during her sophomore season at CDO, when she had a life-threatening scare.
Fowler went to the emergency room at University Medical Center to correct an unknown problem.
Thought to be a breathing disorder, it turned out to be far worse. It was thoracic outlet syndrome, which restricts or shuts off the blood flow altogether between the arm and the ribs.
Kenzie's mother Kelly, the current CDO softball coach, said there were a series of blood clots. Three surgeries were required. She was scared.
"She's definitely exceeded hers and our expectations," Kelly Fowler said. "After the surgery, we didn't know what to expect."
"When I see her arm go around, we feel lucky. I say a thankful prayer every day."
How worried was Kenzie herself?
"I honestly didn't know how serious the surgery was because everything happened so fast," Kenzie said. "But I've just always assumed that injured athletes can come back from surgeries, so I didn't think my situation was any different. But I also didn't know the complications of my surgery."
What helped her through it? Physical therapy, and the support of family and friends, helped Fowler recover within a year. CDO won the next two state titles.
Now that she's at the UofA, the freshman has identified some of the differences.
"At the college level, the game is quicker and the players are stronger and faster," Fowler said. "Also, the conditioning schedule was tough in the fall as a freshman. You really max your body and it's pretty amazing how it responds when you condition for hours every day."
While Fowler remains a very dominating pitcher in college, she's getting used to batting less. She batted 22 times this season, despite a batting average of .364.
"I've always been a hitter," Fowler said. "It's part of who I am.
"But wherever the team needs me, and however, I can contribute the most to the team is where I want to be. Right now, that is pitching. I'm so excited to see where we will go and what lies ahead."
One thing left undecided is what Kenzie is going to do for a major. "I'm still thinking about it."
Another thing to be decided is who will be the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Fowler has been named one of the 10 finalists for this award. What about the awards she's already won?
"These honors are very special, with each representing a different part of my life and career. I am extremely honored to receive such prestigious awards," Fowler said. "I'm just happy to be competing at such a high level in the sport I love."
Kenzie's learned something else from college, while playing for the Wildcats.
"College has made me an expert traveler. I've got packing down to a science."