Rainey Gaffin certainly wasn’t complaining about the winning streak compiled by her Legacy softball team over the past several championship seasons. Far from it.
It took a rare loss, however, to offer some perspective to all that success.
“We always have a big target on our backs, but that target was even bigger after we lost for the first time in 70 games,” Gaffin said. “After that people were like, ‘Legacy is beatable. Let’s go get them.’
“Everybody wanted to take us down, but we didn’t let them.”
Led by the senior pitcher and heavy hitter, the Lightning simply regrouped and marched on to a fifth consecutive Class 5A softball title. And without that adversity early in the season, they might not have capped 2011 in such high style.
“After the streak ended it was easier to go out there and not think about the pressure and just focus on one game at a time,” she said.
Gaffin, who will go on to play at the University of Tennessee after a remarkable prep career, was the best player among a supremely talented team. The BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year finished her senior season with a .591 batting average, a school-record 15 home runs and a 1.74 earned-run average with 124 strikeouts.A starter since her sophomore year, she stepped into pitching duties as junior and has compiled a 45-2 record since.
Gaffin certainly had the confidence of her teammates, especially those she knows best.
“If the ball gets hit to me I know Rainey trusts me to make the play. And if she is pitching I know she is going to strike them out or that we are going to get a grounder,” said Legacy senior Jessica Ball, who has been friends with Gaffin since the age of 4. “It’s just trust, like sisters.”
The athletic Gaffin stands 5-foot-10 and uses a wicked curveball-screwball combination to toy with opposing batters.
And if playing softball appears to come naturally to her, there are several possible reasons for that.
First, she started very young and hasn’t stopped since. If the theory holds true that anyone can master any skill if they spend 10,000 hours working at it, well, Gaffin surpassed that before she could (legally) drive a car.
Second, her mother is also her coach. Dawn Gaffin has guided the Legacy program to the state playoffs for nine straight seasons, including the last five state titles and that 70-game winning streak.
Third, after playing baseball in a boys league as a youngster, Rainey made the move to softball. It’s debatable if playing against boys made her any better, but there is no doubt that the softball looked like the size of a dinner plate while at bat.
“It was different, holy cow was it different. I remember thinking how big that ball was,” she said. “But really, all the fundamentals are the same — throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball.”