Monday, July 13, 2015

Despite Lack of Recognition, Audas' Career a Stellar One

Orlando and the University of Central Florida played home to possibly *the* most dominant pitching staff throughout much of the 2015 season. One of the most glaring snubs from the 2015 all-American list also calls the UCF Softball Stadium home, namely Mackenzie Audas.

Now graduated with her playing career behind her, Audas quietly put together the second-best ERA in the nation, while also assembling a 3+/1 SO/BB ratio and an opponent's batting average of .141. Needless to say, she stifled opposing hitters with experience and ease.

A trio of early-season victories over SEC clubs followed by a shutout against Minnesota in mid-February put the Knights on the map in 2015. Junior hurler Shelby Turnier grabbed the spotlight with some excellent performances, leaving Audas to put together star-quality numbers somewhat in her shadow.

In a situation that should have made them rivals, Audas and
Turnier became friends. (Photo: Jim Hartsing)
Where some pitchers might become jealous or discontent with seeing their teammates' name in headlines instead of their own, these two Knights had a unique relationship, one that not only allowed Audas to be content with her role, but one that kept opposing offenses stuck on "empty".

"[Shelby Turnier and I] really hit it off from the beginning", Audas says. "I am not sure what it is like with other pitching staffs, but there was never any animosity between us, even when it became clear we both had something to offer as a starting pitcher. From the beginning, I made sure to help Shelby whenever she needed it in the bullpen and in return she would help me. I think we worked so well together because we are a good balance of differences. She is more of the vocal/aggressive leader on the field and I have a more quiet confidence approach. She is the best in the game at being able to place a pitch anywhere she wants, while I focus on movement and off-speed. We both knew that if one of us fails then the other is there to pick them up, and we also realized that if we both succeeded the possibilities for our team were endless. I think that our ability to become friends off of the field allowed us to have fun on the field and be truly happy and celebrate in each other’s success."

The most incredible part of Audas' career is that she seemed to get better as her career went on. While the opposite is often true, as opposing hitters and coaches devour film and often manage to "solve" a pitcher, Audas proved the exception. Nearly every major statistic, including her ERA, went down after her sophomore season in 2013 and continued falling, though positively, into her senior campaign.

Undrafted to the National Pro Fastpitch league, despite teams that showed an interest in her, Audas makes clear that not playing professionally was her call. “I hadn’t even bothered to think about softball beyond college because I wasn’t sure that anyone would even want to draft me. So, when I got some inquiry before the NPF draft and that people were interested in drafting me, I knew I had a tough decision to make. In the end though, I decided that at this time playing in the NPF wasn’t right for me. I still have a semester of school left and a big state test to take during the summer and felt that dividing my time between that and softball wouldn’t be something I would want to do.”

As stellar and overpowering as Audas consistently performed on the field, her calm, quiet demeanor made just as great of an impact on the individuals around here, such as the voice of UCF softball, Eric Lopez; "Mackenzie is calm on the field and never fazed by the situation. That always amazed me, going back to her freshman year when, right before she was ready to take on No. 3 Florida in front of a sold-out UCF Softball Complex and large TV audience in the state, she was loose and having fun in the dugout. She then went out and put on one of greatest performances I have ever seen, shutting out Florida with eleven strikeouts and only two hits."

Though an all-American award may not sit in her trophy cabinet, Audas put together a career and a senior season that was more than worthy of one. With her playing career now all but done, she can hold her head high and wait for the call that she's headed to the Knights' Hall of Fame in a few years. She's earned it.

Check back in tomorrow as we conclude our two-part series on Mackenzie Audas in our usual Q&A-interview style.

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