North Dakota State softball coach Darren Mueller asked KK Leddy when he was recruiting her if she was called KK because of her ability to strike people out.
"My dad called me that when I was little," Leddy said after NDSU swept the University of North Dakota 3-0 and 14-0 in a softball doubleheader Saturday at Tharaldson Park. "You can say it stands for strikeouts if you want."
The name fits, as the senior pitcher who grew up just outside of Jacksonville, Fla., notched her 10th shutout of the season Saturday in Game 1 against UND. Leddy moved to 21-7 and dropped her earned-run average to 1.85. She has 165 strikeouts and has walked 59 in 174 1/3 innings in the circle.
"The mindset of continuing to grow and not just being content because she's a senior has been important," Mueller said. "She constantly wants to improve."
It's taken a lot to get to this point for Leddy. Last season, she had a 3.19 ERA, striking out 92 and walking 30 in 114 innings. She joked that she's changed her delivery about eight times since her freshman year. She also had to work on her changeup and the mental part of her game to become the No. 1 pitcher for NDSU.
"I threw my changeup every day," Leddy said. "I really didn't have confidence in it early on in my career. This summer and the fall season I just threw it a lot and started getting confidence in it. I was my biggest enemy at most points, so changing the way that I played mentally has helped a lot. It's my senior season, so I just told myself to take it pitch by pitch and stay in the moment and have fun because you only have so many games left."
The doubleheader Saturday against UND was more for pride than anything. NDSU (38-12, 16-1 Summit League) had already locked up the top seed in the Summit League tournament, which begins Wednesday. The Bison had also already locked up the conference title for the regular season, meaning they will host next season's Summit League tournament.
Leddy didn't seem to care what was clinched.
In Game 1, she struck out four, while giving up five singles, one walk and only had two runners on base behind her once in seven innings in the circle. UND (21-33, 6-11 Summit League) had runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the sixth inning with NDSU up 1-0, but a grounder off the bat of Deja Miller hit UND's Angel Love between first and second and she was called out. There's a good chance the game would've been tied if the ball didn't hit Love.
NDSU added two in the bottom of the sixth. That was plenty of cushion for Leddy.
"She's awesome," Mueller said. "I love coaching her, great personality, great teammate. The team rallies around her, not just because she's a pitcher, but just as a person. She's had a big impact on our program in just how she approaches everything."
The Bison took that momentum into Game 2, scoring seven runs on six hits, two UND errors and a wild pitch in the first inning en route to a 14-0 win in five innings. The Bison will close out the regular season Sunday at Tharaldson Park against UND.
After Sunday's game, the Bison will turn their focus to trying to win their 10th tournament title in the last 11 seasons and sixth in a row. Leddy will be the one to lead them there.
"She just goes out there and throws and that's what makes her successful," NDSU catcher Maddie Hansen said. "It's been fun for both of us this year, both being seniors. We play the best when we're having fun, so it's a matter of keeping each other relaxed and having fun. It's just easy for us and it comes natural."
Leddy played T-ball when she was 4 years old. She's been hooked ever since. Her dad and her uncle played softball and her cousin played softball at the University of South Florida.
"Softball is just in our blood," Leddy said. "Being a pitcher, the art of competing because that's what pitching is, and being able to go one-on-one against a batter is just something that really drives me and fires me up."
UND 000 000 0-0 5 3
NDSU 001 002 x-3 7 0
Leddy and Hansen. Jones and Young. W-Leddy (21-7). L-Jones (8-14).
UND 000 00-0 1 3
NDSU 741 2x-14 13 0
Vargas and Hansen, Wysong (4). Pica, Rosas (2) and Young. W-Vargas (14-4). L-Pica (6-12).