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Softball pitcher of the year: Kayla Floor

Collins Hill's Kayla Floor won 20 games and allowed just four earned runs over 144-plus innings, leading the Eagles to the Class AAAAA state title to earn Pitcher of the Year.

Collins Hill's Kayla Floor won 20 games and allowed just four earned runs over 144-plus innings, leading the Eagles to the Class AAAAA state title to earn Pitcher of the Year.

Kayla Floor has been in tight situations several times in her softball career before this fall.

But she had never faced the kind of pressure she faced with no margin for error for her or her Collins Hill teammates on championship Saturday of this year's Class AAAAA state tournament.

However, Floor came up big when her team needed her the most, earning her two biggest wins of the seasons as the Eagles won three times that day to claim the state championship.

It was the most shining moment in a season full of them for the sophomore right-hander, who is the Daily Post's 2009 Pitcher of the Year.

Just how dominant was she? Consider that she gave up just three earned runs in 312/3 innings during the state tournament, and her season earned run average actually went up.

After giving up just one earned run in her first 113 innings, Floor still posted outstanding numbers, going 20-2 with a 0.19 ERA -- the fourth lowest in Gwinnett history -- with 157 strikeouts in 1442/3 innings. Those numbers also included 18 complete games and 14 shutouts, including one no-hitter.

"She did exactly what she needed to do," Eagles coach Billy Dooley, the Daily Post Coach of the Year, said.

"She was ready for it since Day 1. ... Mentally, she's as tough as they come."

Floor certainly looked ready for her most pressure-packed performances of the season, a pair of complete-game victories that sandwiched another win by Kacey Hawkshead -- all before big crowds at the South Commons Softball Complex's 2,500-seat stadium -- to help the Eagles fight off elimination and eventually win the title.

Floor is glad Dooley thought she was ready for the pressure she faced on championship Saturday, because she freely admits she wasn't quite as sure.

"It was very nerve-racking," Floor said. "I'd never faced any pressure like being in that stadium on Saturday. I was very excited, but very nervous.

"It was completely different from (summer) travel ball. It's a lot more intense, but I'm used to it now."

Floor also had some other help in dealing with the pressure cooker that is coming out of the elimination bracket of the state tournament.

Having a pitching companion like Hawkshead, a senior and first-team all-county selection who had a stellar season herself, gave Floor much needed time to catch her breath -- both mentally and physically -- during the season and the state tournament.

It is something she has been used to, having played on the Atlanta Vipers summer travel team with another all-county pitcher -- Grayson freshman Kanani Cabrales.

With Hawkshead graduating in the spring, Floor knows she may have to take more of the pitching burden next season.

However, she adds that after this season, she believes she will be ready for such responsibility.

"I'm prepared to be pitching a numerous amount of game next year," Floor said. "About two summers ago, a lot of the other pitchers on my travel team got hurt, and there was one tournament in which I had to pitch the whole time. So, I think I can handle it."