Some athletes seem to play better when the pressure is packed and the lights are the brightest. Discovery Canyon's do-it-all softball leader McKenzie Surface is one of those players, and she showed it last week.
The junior came up with the Thunder's two biggest hits of the season in a three-inning span of the 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference title-clinching game against Air Academy.
First, Surface tied the score at three with a two-run homer in the sixth inning, then she hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to send Discovery Canyon home with the conference crown. Oh, and she also pitched all eight innings.
"She's an amazing athlete," Discovery Canyon coach Tanya Ramsay said. "To be able to pitch every single game and also carry us at the plate takes a special athlete, and it's rare to find."
Ramsay wasn't speaking figuratively when she said every game. Surface has been the starter in all 17 of Discovery Canyon's games. Last week, in three wins - including the comeback against the Kadets - Surface pitched 20 innings, giving up two earned runs on 11 hits and striking out 25.
At the plate she tallied 12 RBIs and three home runs.
"It was an amazing experience to get that rally going and the energy was incredible," Surface said of the win over Air Academy. "The fact that it was for the league championship made it even better."
The Thunder have gone 7-0 in conference play for two straight seasons, and are looking to make a run deep into the state tournament - they lost in the 4A quarterfinals last season.
Ramsay says behind the arm and bat of Surface, as well as the talented group around her, the Thunder are set up well for a charge at state.
"In my opinion she's one of the top players in the state," Ramsay said of Surface. "You can't teach the competitive spirit, and she gets better when the game is on the line and she'll be big when we head to the playoffs."
After losing seven seniors from last year's 19-5 squad, Surface wasn't sure what to expect coming into this season, but the team has bonded extremely well and it has led to success.
"It's about working hard and conditioning in practice and that carries over to the game for us," Surface said. "I think our team has so much potential and that we can go very far when we all pull together. My main goal is helping out the team however I can."
Ramsay said Surface will continue to get better between now and the end of her senior season.
"Her potential is unlimited and she has all the talent in the world," Ramsay said. "She's the type of player that a coach hopes to have on their team - a great teammate and captain. She truly is the full package."