Senior captain and first baseman Kelli Hanzel got her start playing baseball with the boys at the age of 5.
“I have an older brother and he played baseball,” Hanzel said. “So, I pretty much wanted to be just like him. And baseball, I just went for it. I kind of wanted to pitch a little bit, so that’s when I made the transition over to softball.”
Hanzel made the change to softball when she was eight. Over time, Hanzel excelled at other spots on the diamond. She is currently listed as both a first and second baseman on Texas’ roster.
“I was predominately a pitcher growing up, but it’s always good to be versatile and play multiple positions,” Hanzel said. “So I played a little bit of second base, as well as first base, going into high school and select ball. That’s kind of my home now.”
But her versatility is not the only thing reflected in her baseball roots. Hanzel is a vocal leader of the team.
“She’s black and white,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s a real good voice and a sense of a little bit of fire under her teammates when you need it. And sometimes she’s not afraid to be the bad guy. That’s especially not easy for female athletes to do and it’s something they have to learn.”
As one of seven seniors on the team, Hanzel is fired up for her last season at Texas. She loves the thrill of a rivalry game, noting a walk-off win at Baylor her freshman year and a 5-0 shutout of Texas A&M last year as her favorite moments. But she’s looking to make even better memories.
“As a senior class, we haven’t had a Big 12 championship,” Hanzel said. “We haven’t had a national championship and that’s two things that we really want so that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
The last time Texas had seven seniors on its roster was in 2005, when the team advanced to the Women’s College World Series and fell to UCLA, finishing third place overall. For the past three years, Texas has lost in the postseason regionals.
“We do have a lot of seniors and I think that speaks to a lot of leadership,” Hanzel said. “Even though we are seniors, sometimes, we need to know when to lead and when to follow. Sometimes the younger ones will be the ones to step up and we’ll be behind them.”
Hanzel’s “taking care of business” personality carries over to her studies. She’s currently studying accounting and hopes to continue her studies in a master’s program at Texas after she graduates.
“I just think that graduating from the University of Texas there is so much tradition and so much legacy,” Hanzel said.