Coming into college, not many freshmen are expected to make an impact on their team right away, especially on a team coming off of as strong of a season as Texas had last year.
But shortstop Devon Tunning hopes to do just that and has already set high goals for herself this season.
“I would like to be Big 12 Freshman of the Year and then help lead the team to the College World Series again,” Tunning said.
Tunning comes to Austin after a stellar high school career at Montgomery High School, where she was named twice to the Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A All-State team. In her senior year, she hit four home runs with a .580 batting average.
Head coach Connie Clark said Tunning’s athleticism jumped out at them during the recruiting process.
“Her athleticism separates her from everyone else,” Clark said. “She has a great swing, and, on defense, she makes things look easy, but she makes the big plays.”
Tunning will have to make the adjustment from being the top player in her district to being one of many top players at Texas. While she admitted that it has been nerve-racking at times, Tunning said it’s been a different experience.
“Everyone is pushing each other, and no one person is really better than the other,” Tunning said. “We’re all together pushing each other.”
Tunning showed some of her talent in the fall season, swatting two doubles and driving in three in a double-header with Incarnate Word and Odessa College. Then against St. Edwards she hit a home run. While the fall season is not as competitive as the regular season, Tunning said it helped her get into the swing of college softball.
“It set a solid base for me to build off of this spring,” Tunning said.
In addition to adjusting to the college game, Tunning might also have to adjust to a new position. Tunning is primarily a shortstop, but that position is currently occupied by senior Taylor Thom.
Clark said they’ll probably move her around to keep her bat in the lineup.
“We’re working with her at third base, and we could put her as the designated player to keep her in the lineup,” Clark said.
Going into the season, the Longhorns will be missing the bat of Taylor Hoagland, who graduated last spring. In 2013, Hoagland led the Longhorns with a .424 batting average, hit 14 home runs and drove in 45 runs.
While she might not be the vocal leader Hoagland was, senior first baseman Karina Scott said Tunning will still be a big leader on this team.
“Hoagland was a different kind of player and they both bring different kinds of aspects,” Scott said. “But, can [Tunning] bring the impact that Hoagland did? Yes, she can.”
Tunning’s spot in the starting lineup isn’t guaranteed as Clark said it’s still a day-to-day competition to figure out who will be in the lineup, but she plans to keep working at it and getting better.
If she does that, Clark said she’ll be a big part of the team’s success.
“She gives us a lot,” Clark said. “She’s one of our top four hitters and she’s going to be an impact player.”