Former Discovery Canyon pitcher McKenzie Surface blames herself for not garnering more attention during her college recruiting. Not for what she did on the mound during a dominant four-year stretch for the Thunder, but for failing to anticipate how all her hard work and success could go unnoticed without the right connections.
No one is looking past her now.
A junior at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Surface has led the Mavericks to a perfect 34-0 record this season and a spot atop the Division II rankings.
The once lightly recruited ace, who had just two college softball offers - the other being from Western Nebraska Community College - is 17-0 with 122 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA.
"Things kind of fell into my lap and it's been great here," the third-year starter said. "It's obviously been an incredible experience that I wouldn't want to change."
On Tuesday, Surface was named the Fastpitch News NCAA Division II and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pitcher of the week.
With five pitches at her disposal, the junior combined for 21 Ks in pair of two-hitters last week against Fort Lewis.
"McKenzie is not only our No. 1 pitcher, but she leads by direction," coach Ben Garcia said. "She's been everything we've asked for and more for the three years she's been with us. She's been phenomenal."
The longtime Pueblo East coach has built a winner on the Western Slope by plucking elite and often overlooked talent from across the state, many who come from the Pikes Peak region.
After taking over the college program in July 2014, Garcia used his knowledge and connections to bring aboard local players like Surface and former Vista Ridge standout Kellie Mrofcza, who starts at shortstop. He also landed Woodland Park's Lexie Comer and Pine Creek's Madysen Kearns, who both have thrived in part-time duties this year.
"I don't think people really get down into those areas and it's a disservice to Colorado Springs because there are some great athletes, there really is," Garcia said. "I'm just happy we have a couple of the good ones and I hope in the future we can get some more."
The Mavericks are in the driver's seat to win their third straight RMAC championship and look destined to make a third consecutive appearance in the D-II NCAA Tournament.
For now, though, they're just happy winning the next game.
For three straight months, that's all they've done.
"We have everyone stepping up and doing what they need to do when their time comes," Mrofcza said. "We are all connecting really well, and I think that's made a huge difference for us. It's been a lot of fun."