When it comes to softball, hard work and dedication seems to come naturally to the Fowler family. So do devotion and the ability to have fun.

Kelly and Lance Fowler have played a key role in watching daughters Mattie and Kenzie succeed in what is obviously a family passion.

The Northwest Tucson’s family’s most recent success stories belong to Mattie, the youngest member of the family. Mattie, 18, finished her senior year at the top, leading the Canyon Del Oro High School softball team to a 4A Division I State Championship. Topping off her success story was being named Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year.

The Gatorade award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.

When asked about the recognition, the talented athlete said, “I am so honored and just so excited. It’s a huge award.”

Mattie, who primarily plays shortstop, stepped up to pitching this season, leading the Dorados to a 35-1 record. She batted .569 with 17 home runs, 22 doubles, 49 runs and a state-record 91 RBIs.

In the circle, the star thrower went 14-0 with a .85 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched.

In the classroom, Mattie maintained a weighted 4.35 GPA, and as a member of CDO’s chapter Key Club International, she organized a city-wide dance for special-needs kids.

“I saw too much of Mattie Fowler this year,” said Jeff Fowler, head coach of Sabino High School. “She’s fantastic. She’s a good shortstop, a good pitcher and a really good hitter. She just stepped up her game. She took that team and put it on her back. She’s not the most dominating pitcher, but she has so much control of herself and her emotions, she knows what to do on every pitch.”

When it comes to awards and championships, Mattie is following the footsteps of big sister Kenzie, who just finished her sophomore year pitching for the University of Arizona.

Kenzie, 20, won the Gatorade award three times while pitching at CDO.

However, Mattie won’t be following in Kenzie’s footsteps at college, choosing to study out of state at the University of Nebraska. The young star said she visited the school, and felt it was the best fit for her future career.

Sharing some insight into her family, Mattie said both her parents played fast-pitch softball and her sister showed her how hard work and dedication pay off.

Besides being a mom, Kelly Fowler also has stepped into the spotlight, coaching the CDO softball team to the 2011 championships, and leading the Desert Thunder summer league.

Kelly was named the Southern Arizona 4A Coach of the Year, and according to Mattie, has set a strong example to follow.

A humble coach and mom, Kelly explained why both her daughters were successful.

“They’ve worked hard, and they know that nothing comes easy,” she said. “They’ve been fortunate to be on teams with amazing players, which helped them succeed.”

As an educator, Kelly said a key to coaching well is to recognize that it’s just like teaching, except that it takes place on a ballfield instead of inside a classroom.

Although disappointed that Mattie chose to attend an out-of-state school, Kelly and Lance said they are proud of their daughter and excited about her future.

As a father, Lance said he also serves as a coach where needed, and judging by the setup in the family’s backyard, there was plenty of reps at home.

Lance said the family either practiced or spent time having fun together at least six days a week outside the regular school practices.

“Really, wherever we go it’s about softball,” Lance said. “I can’t remember when we’ve taken a non-softball vacation.”

Remembering the days when Desert Thunder, which is managed by Lance and Kelly, first started, the family joked about Mattie’s height and plans to stay occupied in the outfield.

When she was only 7 years old, Mattie planned for her hunger pangs during the game and stuffed chocolate in the fingers of her glove. When the chocolate melted, Lance said she had to be pulled from the game.

After that, they told Mattie to put Skittles in the glove instead, Kelly joked.

Before leaving for Nebraska in August, Mattie said she and her parents will continue competing in the summer league that includes trips to California, Washington, Colorado and Las Vegas.

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