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Perseverance pays off for Arizona softball’s T Statman

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

How do you come back after a down year—especially when you only have one year of college softball left to play? T Statman is demonstrating what it takes to persevere and get your game back. After getting hit in the face against Utah last weekend, she will need that perseverance once again.

When Statman came to Arizona, she gave every indication that she would be a permanent member of the Wildcat line-up for four years. The Scottsdale native immediately stepped in as an effective designated player, playing in 56 games and starting 55 of them.

A .289 batting average with 41 hits and 19 walks as a freshman? She definitely had promise. And there was nothing her sophomore year that suggested she wouldn’t continue to be a mainstay.

Yes, her batting average dropped a few points in 2017. She didn’t get quite as many hits, but there was nothing alarming there. She had improved her ability to get on via the base on balls, ending the season with a career-high .415 on base percentage.

Then, came 2018. From the vantage point of those in the stands, she vanished. Her name was called at the beginning of each game, then she disappeared back into the dugout.

Rarely did Statman get into a game, and it was primarily as a pinch hitter when she did. She was no longer a regular designated player, even though that position was unstable throughout much the season.

After starting 114 games over her first two years, she only got into 17 her junior season. Just eight of those were starts. At year’s end, her batting average had bottomed out at .125. She had only three hits and seven walks—and 10 strikeouts.

When asked about the effect of the mental game in the batter’s box, Statman admitted that it can be a problem even for experienced hitters. It was part of her problem in 2018.

“It happens,” she said. “It happened a lot with me last year. And when you start pressing and thinking about it, obviously it kind of gets to you.”

For many players, the kind of struggles Statman faced last season might motivate them to start looking around. Could they play somewhere else? Would a change of scenery help them turn things around?

Statman stuck around, and it’s a good thing she did.

When 2019 rolled around, things were different. She got her first start in the Wildcats’ fourth game of the year against Illinois State. She got her first hit of the season that day, going one for two at the plate. She was just getting started.

Statman got at least one hit in four of her first five games, including a two-hit, two-RBI game against UC Santa Barbara. In two of those games, she hit one over the fence. At the end of that streak, her batting averaged had spiked to .625.

She didn’t even have to start the game to produce. Her first home run since 2017 came in pinch-hitting duties against New Mexico. In the next game, she came in to pinch hit against Cal State Fullerton and drove in a run on an RBI single.

Going into the out-of-conference match-up against Grand Canyon, she has a slash of .340/.414/.620. She has six extra-base hits, including four home runs. Six walks line up against just four strike-outs. So, what changed for her?

“For me, it was really taking everything one pitch at a time instead of looking at the overall big picture, and really trying to embrace the role that I’ve been coming into,” she said. “Coach always talks about it. You have a tape measure of your life, and it kind of gets chopped down. And the same happens in this game. You’re not going to play forever, so for me it’s kind of coming out and trying to attack every day and give 100 percent. That also comes not only in practice, but also in the games. You only get so many at-bats, you only get so many strikes, and so many pitches. So, you really have to come out and really take what they give you.”

Arizona coach Mike Candrea believes that the biggest change for Statman is having an idea of what she wants to accomplish in each at-bat. Last year, that wasn’t always the case.

“I think she just has a better understanding of what she’s trying to do,” he said. “She’s not trying to do too much, but being ready to pull the trigger when she gets a pitch. I think she just understands that you can’t cover everything, so you need to make sure that you have some idea of what you’re trying to hit. And you wait for that pitch, and then you pull the trigger and hit it versus trying to hit everything that someone throws you.”

If she can keep focused, Candrea says she has the skills to make her senior year special.

“She’s a very intelligent young lady, and I think she’s really done a good job of being a student of the game,” he said after the Feb. 28 game against Drake. “Right now, she understands the nuances of hitting.If you look at her (when she hit her third home run of the season), she had a plan. Her plan was to try to stay on top of things, and when she got on top of the rise ball, it went out of the ballpark. She’s got a nice, short, compact swing and she’s small in stature, so therefore she’s got a small zone. And she can swing it. That’s her strength right now, being able to hit the ball to all fields. But when she’s got a plan, she’s as good as any right now.”

Statman’s father posted on Twitter that she was doing well after the hit-by-pitch in Salt Lake City. Now she just needs to fully recover, get back into the box and keep going.