Caylan Arnold pitched her way to SEC Freshman of the Year honors, striking out 141 batters with a 2.03 ERA in her first season at Tennessee.
A graduate of nearby Maryville High School, Arnold became a pitcher by chance during her sophomore season of high school.
"Our J.V. pitcher got injured and had to have surgery and so I was like, 'well I can throw a fastball and that's about it," Arnold said with a laugh.
That was good enough and they put her in the circle.
"I loved it and had so much fun and I told my mom I think I want to take lessons and learn some more pitches and get serious about this," Arnold said.
She almost didn't even play softball at all in high school. When her family moved from Jackson, Tenn. to Maryville before her freshman year, Arnold wanted to drop softball and focus on basketball. Her mom convinced her to stick with softball as a way to make friends in a new place.
She fell in love with pitching partly because she thought it had some similarities to her first love, basketball.
"Basketball is really high speed, everyone's always moving all the time and softball is slower that that, so I think I liked pitching because I was constantly moving, constantly doing something," Arnold said.
She started taking pitching lessons her sophomore year and was quickly noticed by college recruiters. Arnold committed to MTSU that same year but then had second thoughts. She decommitted and her travel ball coach started contacting her list of top ten schools.
The calls from big-time softball programs came pretty quickly.
Florida State. Washington. Tennessee.
"Coach Karen (Weekly, the Vols co-head coach) came down to one of our practices and watched me throw a little bit," Arnold said.
"I talked to her later that night on the phone and she was like, 'we want you to come to Tennessee tomorrow.' So I did and loved it. Loved the whole family atmosphere and everything about it."
A few weeks later she was committed to Tennessee, only a year after she started pitching seriously.
A kinesiology major, Arnold is planning on going to dental school.
"I got braces when I was like 12 and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I loved going and listening to them talk about what they were going to do and seeing the results in my teeth," Arnold said.
She had always been interested in the medical field and took some introductory medical classes at Maryville High.
"If you look at my hands, I'm constantly shaking, it's like adrenaline all the time, so I couldn't be a surgeon," Arnold said with a laugh. "You need a steady hand for that."
"I'm not really good with sick people, so I didn't want to go into that. We had a little lab where you brushed other people's teeth and examined their teeth and I just loved it, so I was like yea this is what I want to do."
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