When the thermometer hit 100 degrees and there was not a cloud in the sky to block the blazing sun Lipscomb’s Bree Thurman often wondered what she was doing this past summer.
Sometimes she would head to the batting cage at Draper Diamond three days a week by herself to swing at hundreds of balls sitting on a batting tee. Sometimes she might skip a week.
But there was one constant thought in her head all summer.
“I was just determined to be in the lineup on a regular basis,” Thurman said. “All my life from summer ball through high school I had always been the starter in centerfield and batted at the top of the lineup.
“I knew college would be hard, but I always have had high expectations for myself. I wanted to be a starter from the beginning. Having to work hard for a starting spot was unusual for me. Being a starter one day and then not starting at all the next day was really stressful.”
While it may be difficult to completely determine how much the batting tee work helped, Thurman’s hitting statistics have been impressive for the Lady Bisons this season. The sophomore, from Spring Hill, Tenn., leads the Lady Bisons in batting (.354), slugging percentage (.583), on base percentage (.476), runs scored (17), hits (23) and total bases (38). She is tied for first in home runs with Vanessa Medina and Haley Elliott with four.
She is third in runs batted in with 13 and is tied for third with Courtney Billington in doubles with three.
“We always knew she was a competitor,” Lady Bison’s coach Kristin Ryman said. “I knew she was a player who was always going to keep working.
“The biggest surprise has been how her consistency has changed from last year to this year. With Bree I noticed in the early fall workouts that something was different with her. Whatever she did over the summer you could tell she had been hitting and working.”
Thurman credits her older brother, Brandon, for helping her build on a competitive nature that she has never been without. “I am competitive in anything, even a game like capture the flag,” Thurman said. “That’s just how I am.”
Pitchers find her difficult to face. She seldom gets fooled twice in the same at bat. And if she strikes out in a game she usually doesn’t let I happen again.
“When she is at the plate Bree is the one person every game that we know is in the right mindset and is going to find a way to make something happen,” Ryman said. “She has been that one person in the lineup who has really stuck out as far as great at bats.
“She will battle the count. You may get her once, but chances are you are not going to get her again. She will work through situations to give us the best chance. She has shown her power with doubles and home runs. She has stolen some bases. She has been that all-around player for us so far.”
Playing again on a regular basis has given Thurman a strong shot of confidence after splitting time at left field or right field based on injury situations her freshman season. She likes being a player that others are looking to for production at the plate and on the field.
“At the end of the game I want to be the one up to bat when everything is on the line,” Thurman said. “I have all of the confidence in the world in my teammates, but I love having all of the pressure on my shoulders. I thrive in that situation.”
Thurman knew that center field would be open this season due to Lauren Dortwegt completing her eligibility. Not happy with playing a part-time role she put all of her emphasis on earning that starting spot.
“Bree saw that as a prime opportunity to kick it in gear and make her move,” Ryman said. “Not only did she do that, but she has also exceeded a lot of the expectations we had for her this year. She is going to emerge into more of a leadership role the next couple of years.
“I didn’t expect her to do some of the things she has done this year until she was a junior or a senior. But she has really been impressive with her consistency in the lineup. We have a talented bunch of hitters, but we struggle with that consistency.”
Ryman rates her as one of those players who not only welcomes challenges, but thrives on them.
“Bree is feisty,” Ryman said. “That is the best word I can use to describe her.
“She is a fighter. She is going to find a way to beat you no matter what it takes. I wish we could take that mentality and spread it across our whole team.”
While most of the attention has been on her hitting, Thurman has been a solid defensive presence with no errors at this point of the season.
“Bree is very rangy in center field,” Ryman said. “She is a player that doesn’t always get the best jump but reads the ball well. Her closing speed is ridiculous. She can close in on a ball and make a play when it looks like she is not going to be anywhere close.
“She has made plays on deep ball. She covers the gaps well. She has a strong arm. Those are three things you want in a center fielder. She is always thinking ahead. She has thrown runners out at the plate. A lot of it is her accuracy and her arm strength, but a lot of it is Bree anticipating the ball coming to her.”
Thurman always has a smile on her face when she is playing softball. She admits that her favorite place to be is on a softball field. She plans to play for as long as she can.
“I’ve played it my whole life,” Thurman said. “It has always been my favorite sport since I was 4 years old. I love being on the field. I love competing.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.