Thompson's power hitting helps drive Butler University softball program
It was the fifth inning of the Big East championship game, and the Butler University (BU) women's softball team, who was trying to win its first-ever conference championship game, had fallen into a steep 6-0 hole to St. John's.
The Bulldogs had one runner on, with freshman Cheyenne Thompson up to bat.
Thompson struggled a bit with her average throughout the year, hitting just .187, and she struck out on her first trip to the plate earlier in the game. But the Marshall, Illinois, native turned around the game and BU's fortunes with a two-run smash to centerfield to get the Bulldogs on the board and spark a rally that would see them go on to score eight runs in the next two innings -- on their way to a dramatic, come-from-behind, 10-8 victory over the Red Storm and the first Big East title in BU softball program history.
Butler head coach Scott Hall had faith in Thompson's abilities behind the plate all along and figured it just a matter of time before she broke out with some timely hitting.
"She came up with some big hits for us this year even though her average was a little low," Hall told the East Central Reporter. "She had that huge hit for us in the championship game. ... We don't expect freshman to come in and immediately hit .400. We obviously know that there's an adjustment period."
Thompson's adjustment period was perhaps more intense than most. She endured a lot from the moment she stepped on the field. Thompson started 51 games this season for the Bulldogs at shortstop, one of the steeper transitions as a player moves from the high school game to the college one.
"She was our shortstop all year," Hall said. "Shortstop has a lot of responsibilities, so I think it's both being a freshman playing a very important position and also just trying to acclimate to the college game, like all the freshman do."
Despite the adjustment period, Thompson did flash the home run power that made her a star at Marshall High School. Thompson owns the all-time career and single-season home run record at Marshall, and her three home runs on the year for Butler were the second most on team.
Now that Thompson's proven she can carry over that power to the NCAA and has fully acclimated herself to the field general duties at shortstop, Hall will be looking for her to take the next step in her development as she moves into her sophomore season.
"Cheyenne's got a ton of power," he said. "So it's just a matter of consistency and pitch selection, and she's going to be a real force for us in the future."
After gaining so much valuable experience with the extensive playing time her freshman year, Hall expects Thompson to be a Butler fixture and one of his main weapons as the Bulldogs look to build off their first title. After also making their first-ever NCAA tournament in addition to winning the Big East, expectations will be high and Thompson will in all likelihood be one of the main anchors at shortstop.
"We don't plan on moving kids just to move them," Hall said. "Somebody's going to have to beat her out. And it's going to take somebody that's really good and playing really well to have a chance to knock her out of there. She's earned the chance to defend her position, that's for sure."