Freshman shortstop Peyton Hedrick has been tearing up the Southland Conference this season, and that’s a bit of an understatement.
Despite the team’s 4-17 showing in the conference and 10-31 overall record this season, Hedrick’s individual performance had proven she is more than her team’s record.
At second in the conference in batting average, SLG percentage and hits, and in the top 10 for OBP, runs, doubles, triples and home runs, Hedrick has shined as one of the nation’s top performers earning her consideration against 24 players across the nation for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Freshman Player of the Year award.
“It was very surprising,” Peyton said. “That’s a huge deal being in the top 25, especially being at a smaller school like ACU. It’s awesome to be representing the university and getting ACU’s name out there. Getting people to know ACU, it’s a start for us to try to get the school bigger and to get the program bigger, which is where we need to go.”
Coming from a softball background, Peyton has some pretty big cleats to fill. But, she seems to be filling them just fine in her collegiate career.
“My mom was a three-time All-American pitcher at Louisiana Tech, but she never pressures me, ever,” she said. “It’s hard because a lot of people know my mom, and they’re like, ‘Your mom was a such a great player, and you’re a great player,’ and I mean, I feel pressure in that way, and it feels like I need to live up to that and do as well as she did, but it’s pretty hard to do what she did, so we’ll see.”
Despite being called a five-tool player at just the age of 18, Peyton said she still has a lot to learn about the game at this level.
“Everything’s faster and quicker, so obviously, being called a five-tool player, I take that as a compliment,” Peyton said. “It’s a little much for me right now because I have a lot of room to grow. I mean, I’m only a freshman and I’m still learning the ropes of college softball, but I guess that’s a good thing.”
Peyton was a starter and team captain at North Forney High School in Forney, and her performance doesn’t seem to have changed a bit at the plate as she’s moved into a tougher Div. I environment.
Peyton batted over .500 with a .688 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 152 RBI and .912 fielding percentage over her high school career. So far, she has better .454 on the season.
“I don’t like being a mental hitter, so when I go up there and I’m thinking too much, I don’t do well,” Peyton said. So after playing my whole life, I’ve learned that I know how to hit. In high school, I did really well just because I know how to be relaxed. College is stressful, whether it’s the preseason or conference, so when I would get into a slump or have a bad game, I’d just remember to relax and play the game normally like I know how to play it, and it turns out it’s been successful.”
With successful stats comes the desire to be consistent, but Peyton said she has to make sure she’s constantly focused on her team and winning one game at a time.
“As much as any person, you want to keep those stats and you want to do as great as you can, so there is that pressure, but I try not to worry about that and try to do everything for my team, not just for me,” Peyton said. “If I have a bad game, I feel like we won’t do as well, and that sits on my head sometimes; I have to push that away because I can’t carry that as a single person. It takes nine people to win a game, so I try to remember that it’s not just me, it takes everybody.”
Peyton is competing against fellow Southland players Erika Piancastelli of McNeese and Sydney Booker of Southeastern Louisiana, as well as players from distinguished programs from around the country including Oklahoma, Alabama and North Carolina for the FPOY award.
She said she would love to be recognized for her outstanding play and her contribution to the program this season, but she knows her fellow Wildcats are what really matter.
“It’s for my team; nothing is for me,” Peyton said. “This season, I’ve done great, but it doesn’t feel great. It feels good to get the accomplishments that I have, and I’m doing well as a freshman. It’s a great start, but I want to be able to build for my team, and I want to be as great as I am this year next year when everything comes together. I want to build on my defense and be perfect at everything I can be, and I hope that my team sees that we’re all in this together.”