By Emilie Fogleman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
When Baylor junior softball player Kaitlyn Thumann was given the opportunity to hit leadoff for the Lady Bears, she was eager to take on the challenge. For some players, the fear of literally striking out can keep them from playing their best, but not Thumann.
“I actually love it,” Thumann said. “Being the first person to see a pitcher - I like being able to relay information to my team. It allows me not to think. I have the freedom to do what I want. It is sometimes a tough role because you have no idea what you are seeing sometimes, but I love leadoff and try my best to own that spot.”
Thumann has taken the Big 12 by storm this season, batting a solid .417 with a .519 on-base percentage going into the last week of the conference play. With her incredible knack for finding a way to get on base, Thumann was a surprising, but easy choice for head coach Glenn Moore to put in the leadoff spot. The Katy, Texas, product had a 44-game on-base streak that stretched from the last 20 games of 2013 to the first 24 contests of 2014.
“She wasn’t our leadoff going into the season, and I didn’t think she would be, although it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to have her there,” Moore said. “She’s just such a tough out. You have to give a pitcher a lot of credit when she is having her way with Kaitlyn, because it isn’t often. She just sets the tone, so I like the way it works with her right there.”
In softball and baseball, the leadoff batter can make or break a team. They are the players who can determine how the rest of the game will go based on their first at bat. According to Moore, when Thumann is on fire, the whole Baylor team follows suit.
“You can go back and look at the films of the games, and when we are playing our best ball, she’s hitting the best,” Moore said. “She has that kind of power over our lineup. When she is seeing the ball well, the team hits with confidence and plays with confidence. If there is a struggle with her in that leadoff position, everyone starts doubting if we can hit this pitcher.”
Throughout the years, Baylor has had seven All-Americans, so Moore is no stranger to coaching the best in the nation. With Thumann though, he was pleasantly surprised with her contributions to the team.
“To be quite honest with you, she is a gift,” Moore said. “I didn’t do a lot of recruiting with Kaitlyn. She wanted to come to Baylor because she loves the Christian environment. She kind of recruited us, but of course we were on board with her. I just have to be honest with you, I did not foresee her being the hitter and athlete that she is. I would love to take credit for that, but I just can’t. She’s certainly made an impact on this program.”
Thumann definitely has made an impact on this program, and she is still only a junior. As one of the best players on the team as well as an upperclassman, she has embraced the leadership role expected of her.
“I’ve always been a lead-by-example player,” Thumann said. “I’m quiet-ish, so as I have grown up, I try to talk more and be a mentor to the freshmen and younger girls. I’m not an outspoken person, but I try to be more behind-the-scenes. I feel the need to perform because I am older and have done this before. That’s what comes with being a junior.”
Softball has been a part of Thumann’s life starting from the age of five, when her father Dale, who played college baseball at Stephen F. Austin, put her into t-ball. Some athletes might tire of a sport they have played all their lives. However, that is no the case for Thumann. The coaches, teammates and her competitive desire keep her squarely in the batter’s box.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches over the years, and they have helped keep me interested in the game,” Thumann said. “I’m really competitive, and I always want to be better. I think that has also kept me going. I have a great team here in college now. They have become my best friends. I couldn’t imagine being in college without this atmosphere. It’s what keeps me going.”
One day though, Thumann will have to hang up her glove, but the health science studies major has a lot to look forward to off the field. The 2013 Academic All-Big 12 First-Team honoree will begin applying for physician assistant schools this summer. With her talent on the field and a promising future ahead of her, Moore only had the upmost praise for his outfielder off the field.“She would be a dad’s dream,” Moore said. “She is a quality, Christian young lady. The girls love her on the team. She is a true friend and a solid person, which is the best I can come up with. All the accolades go to her. She’s everything, and I am not making that up.”