Whitworth softball culture exemplified by starting shortstop
Junior shortstop Tessa Matthews has valuable experience for the Pirates including efforts that earned her a position on the First Team All-NWC last year. Her leadership spills over into all areas of being an Division III college athlete through exemplifying team expectations in practice, games and off the field.
Whitworth’s softball practices have been an important part of recent success. It all starts in the fall, with four practices a week that keep softball players busy. Practice is fast paced, as players move from drill to drill.
“When you warm up, you warm up efficiently. Not really walking around but hustling everywhere,” she says.
This intentionality is also seen in the fall scrimmages.
“On every Friday we scrimmage. We get real umpires and we scrimmage each other, so it is really game like and we get to face live pitching,” Matthews says.
It is an opportunity to simulate the intensity of a real game and the competitiveness of Matthews.
“Everyone says I look like am mad on the field all the time and I am not, it is just my face in general,” Matthews added.
This focus translates well to off the field success for Matthews in staying organized.
Off the Field Life
Student athletes on the softball team have academics as a pillar of team values. The weekly expectations of Whitworth softball players includes attendance as study halls either within the library or at the coach’s house.
“Depending on your grade point average you have to get a certain amount of hours in at the library throughout the week, so you spend a lot of nights at the library,” Matthews says.
For Matthews, the desire to study and be caught up in academia goes beyond these study hours. On weekend free of softball, Matthews uses spare time as an opportunity to catch up on homework.
Members of the softball team have a mindset that reflects high academic expectations. By succeeding academically, the Whitworth softball team allows themselves an opportunity to impress the community both off and on the field.
But that does not limiting them from having fun together off the field.
Last year, Whitworth (31–12) took the regular season crown for the Northwest Conference. Matthews was a critical piece in their success offensively hitting .333 with 23 RBIs. But her strength is in her ability as a shortstop.
“I am pretty aggressive when it comes to taking pride in my defense,” Matthews said in describing her playing style.
Matthews enjoys the thrill of close plays, especially against slap hitters. These hitters attempt to hit the ball hard into the ground towards the right side of the infield and beat out a throw.
“It is fun, not in a bad way, to take away their game plan from them,” Matthews said.
These competitive juices are help what give her an edge at her craft and help make Matthews an example of her team’s mentality. Her intensity sets the tone for a team competing for conference crown.
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Information provided by Tessa Matthews roster bio, Northwest Conference sports website archives, and through interviews. Photos provided by Whitworth Sports Information department with the permission of director Steve Flegel.