Whether she’s in the classroom, on the softball field or thousands of feet in the air, junior catcher Erin Shireman excels.
Erin is an aerospace engineering student and four-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection. During her freshman season, she was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. On the diamond, she has played four different positions for the Longhorns, spending most of her time as a catcher.
But what sets her furthest apart from most utility players is her private pilot’s license.
Erin’s father, Kirk, worked for NASA, so aerospace engineering has always been an interest of hers, she said. A few years ago, Kirk started flying again, and that prompted Erin to take lessons and earn her license too. The skills she uses when she flies carry over to other aspects of her life.
“It helps with softball and school a lot,” Erin said. “Whenever you’re flying, you have to constantly look at the instruments, make quick decisions, assess things and respond — kind of like catching. When I’m working on problems for different classes, I look at the formulas and sample problems, and stuff actually comes into play when I’m flying or in the wind tunnel, too.”
Erin’s versatility has helped her grow into a key fixture for Texas. She has played in 45 games this season, including 44 starts, as a catcher, third baseman and designated hitter. Head coach Connie Clark said she appreciates the intelligence Erin brings to the game.
“It couldn’t be better that she’s a catcher for us — that field general who just has a really good, big-picture sense about things,” Clark said. “She’s got a tremendous work ethic and a competitor’s mentality. She comes in early and works and is really a student of the game.”
That work ethic has helped Erin improve her offensive output. Early in her career, Erin struggled with chasing balls outside of the strike zone. She finished last season with a .284 batting average, three home runs and 16 RBIs in 34 games played. She currently boasts a .307 average, tied for third-best on the team, and eight home runs and 39 RBIs, both the second-best records on the team.
Erin put significant work into improving her hitting during the offseason. She said she believes her time as a catcher has influenced her offense as well.
“My whole job is to catch pitches and read the release out of a hand, so I think that comes into play, and it helps a lot with being able to recognize the spins quicker and know how pitchers think,” Erin said.
As Texas (32–14, 7–5 Big 12) prepares for a three-game road series against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State (20–28, 3–10), Erin and Clark both want to focus on the little things, while improving on consistency, to get the victory.
“I don’t know that we’ve hit on all cylinders yet,” Clark said. “We’ve had some great pitching outings and just didn’t get the timely hitting. Other times, we didn’t get the pitching, but we got the great offense, so I’d like to see it all come together.”
The series takes flight at 7 p.m. on Friday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, followed by afternoon games Saturday and Sunday.