In the tighter games this past fall, opposing pitchers made a habit of passing on Silver Creek standout Maddie Kuehl. Anything to avoid a bat that hit over .500 the past two seasons — one that averaged a long ball in every eighth at-bat in the COVID-shortened year.
Now … if only there was a way around Kuehl, the pitcher.
“It didn’t matter what situation it was, how big the game was, how much pressure was on her,” Silver Creek coach Ryan Beavers recounted, “she just did her job.”
A prospect unlike most of the state’s top high school talents, the 6-foot-1 Raptors’ flamethrower soared again in 2020 and was named BoCoPreps.com player of the year.
In the fall, her talent was inescapable. Even inside Class 4A’s most dominant league — the Northern Colorado Athletic Conference — her stuff on the mound was often impalpable and her bat rarely missed on the way to nabbing the league’s top pitcher and player honor (as told to her by her coach this past week).
Before that, those talented stretched all the way out to the softball hotbed that is Southern California, where she currently has a verbal commit to Loyola Maramount in Los Angeles.
“The thing that stood out to me was the emotional maturity,” Beavers marveled. “We’ve faced a lot of kids over the years that didn’t play for me, that were big-time recruits, big-time pitchers … I’d remember playing against pitchers in the biggest of the big moments and they couldn’t close the deal. The moment was bigger than them and the game sped up on them. And with Maddie, you never saw that.”
Coming into the fall, Kuehl wasn’t admittedly 100 percent while working into form after an offseason ailment kept her from throwing most of the summer. She found her stride a few games in, though, and shouldered the weight throughout the season, throwing 86 percent of the team’s innings (93 1/3 out of 108 1/3). Most of those frames, brilliant.
While leading Silver Creek to the state quarterfinals, she struck out 148 batters with an impressive 2.48 ERA. From Sept. 1 on (12 games) — with a slate that included dominant offenses in 4A champ Holy Family and runner-up Mead twice — she held opponents to an eye-squinting .208 average.
Wanting the big moments with a bat in her hands, too, she led the Raptors in average (.500) and on-base percentage (.594) with 26 hits and 12 walks. Of those free passes, many were intentional, her coach said.
She also led the NCAC in slugging (1.115) and was second in 4A with eight homers.
Asked about her approach as it ranges from the mound to the plate, the senior was articulate over the phone. So much so, she texted a while later to sharpen her answer in almost fastball-on-the black precision.
“I’ve worked really hard on not focusing on or trying to control the outcome of a pitch or an at-bat,” she said. “Instead, I just trust what I can control, which is my mechanics and all the hard work I’ve put in.”
Kuehl ranks all-time top 20 across offensive statistics in Silver Creek history, per Beavers. Despite a career shortened by an injury as a freshman and then condensed in 2020 due to COVID-19, Kuehl finished second in home runs (16) and slugging (.877), third in average (.513) and doubles (30), and fourth in hits (121).
As part of a long line of talented pitchers to come through for the Raptors, Beavers said Kuehl leaves with the program’s most strikeouts (427) and best WHIP (1.06).