Howard Payne Lady Jackets center fielder Tonya Thompson has one of the hottest bats on the team, and that may be from shifting exclusively to the outfield.

Before her junior season, Thompson saw limited action while splitting time between center field and pitching, but since making the switch Thompson has a team-leading .412 batting average.

“It’s really helping a lot with my batting this year. I’m hitting the ball like crazy this year. It looks like a beach ball to me,” Thompson said. “[Switching] has a lot to do with it. I’m able to just focus on my one position and hitting. Maybe we can incorporate pitching back into it, but right now the coaches and I are happy with what’s going on.”

In her third year at HPU, Thompson seems in the midst of a breakout season. Along with her team-leading .412 batting average, Thompson is also third in runs with 11 and triples with 2. As a pitcher, she faced 23 batters in 81.3 innings over 12 starts in 2018 – nearly replicating her 2017 numbers. She has also seen significantly more playing time in her junior year with much of her time previously dedicated to the circle.

“Playing every game has really opened my eyes,” Thompson said. “Going from just pitching and seeing my teammates playing every game to doing that made me appreciate them a lot more. It’s not as easy as people make it seem. You have pressure on you every play in every game and you appreciate that more.”

Although nine games back of undefeated American Southwest Conference leader East Texas Baptist, and in the middle of a six-game losing streak, Thompson said the season is far from lost. She described the HPU roster as loaded with upperclassmen and rife with talent and believes the end result of the 2019 season will be determined by how they apply their talent and not their talent overall.

“We’re just in our own heads right now. We have to play the game that we know we can. Softball is an extremely unpredictable sport,” Thompson said. “If you don’t play to the best of your abilities any team can come and beat you.”

Thompson currently majors in Kinesiology and said she has not ruled out coaching after her career at HPU comes to an end.

“I would love to go on and coach somewhere in the future, but I’m just waiting for God to lead me where he wants me,” Thompson said. “Wherever I wind up, I wind up whether it’s personal training, strength and conditioning or coaching. I just want to do what He wants me to do in life.”