She insists she does not go to bat thinking about hitting home runs but just trying to get a quality at-bat.
However, a quality at-bat often leads to a home run for Kentucky freshman shortstop Erin Coffel. She had 50 homers in three high school seasons in Indiana and has a team-high nine homers in her first 19 games at UK this season.
“The home runs are not something I think about,” Coffel said.
The school record for home runs by a freshman is 12 by Amber Janneck in 2004. The school single season home run record is 21 by Brooke Marnitz in 2007 followed by Abbey Cheek’s 20 in 2019 and 18 in 2018. Current UK assistant coach Brittany Cervantes had 15 in 2011. Six others had 13 in one season including current Cat Mallory Peyton in 2019.
Coach Rachel Lawson had big expectations for Coffel going into the season and the freshman has certainly met them. She is hitting .437 with 27 runs scored and has knocked in a team-high 27 runs. She also leads the team with six doubles.
“No, I’m not surprised at how well Erin is doing. We targeted Erin very early on and she came into the season in incredible shape,” Lawson said. “We think Erin can do great things at Kentucky, but I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised, no, at what she is doing.”
Coffel came to a UK softball camp when she was a seventh-grader. She verbally committed to Kentucky as a freshman.
“I have been waiting for this moment a long time,” Coffel said. “I am excited to get on the field and be playing in the SEC which is obviously the best conference in the nation. There have been a lot of adjustments and I am just excited to step on the field with the girls.”
Lawson has been impressed with Coffel’s mental approach and how nothing has overwhelmed her.
“It takes some time to get used to college pitching. Erin has adapted so quickly and taken on the right mindset in the box and in the field of competing every chance she gets. That’s been impressive to me,” Lawson said.
Coffel says Lawson and her staff have told her to not get upset and continue to work knowing she is playing at one of the “highest levels” in the nation. She says everyone has been “friendly and welcoming” but credits teammate Emily Blaine, a sophomore from Christian County, for being her “lifesaver” this season.
“She helps me with everything from life in the dorm to softball to friends. She has really helped me get adjusted to campus and has become one of my best friends,” Coffel said.
On the field, Coffel says junior catcher/outfielder Kayla Kowalik is one player she intently watches.
“I am right behind her in the batting lineup,” Coffel said. “I know when she goes up (to bat) something good is going to happen. She motivates me to get on base. She is a stud. Obviously I am a freshman and not many people know about me so I just try to crush a pitch and get on base.”
She says she’s worked to improve her range defensively at shortstop and adjust to the quicker pace of play. Coffee admits former UK All-American shortstop Katie Reed was a player she always enjoyed watching.
“I just felt like when she was out in the field there was always a calm presence. I kind of took that away from her play,” Coffel said. “She played so calmly and never looked flustered.”
Lawson has no worries about her defensive prowess as UK gets set to start SEC play this weekend.
“Erin is going to continue to get better. We wouldn’t have started her at shortstop if we didn’t believe in her,” the Kentucky coach said. “She’s going to continue to work on the things that make infielders so good like footwork and glove work. She’ll get better and better with more reps.”
Coffel says Lawson remains the same person she was when Coffel committed to UK as a high school freshman and the two have always had a “good relationship” that has not changed.
“It’s easy to be coached by her. I absolutely love the whole coaching staff. That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose to come here,” Coffel said.
She jokes that teammates have given her a “rough time” occasionally since the season started.
“They motivate me to do better and the relationship we have with each other is amazing but they can kind of ride me at times in a good way,” Coffel said.