KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee softball pitcher Payton Gottshall is very grateful to be playing for the Lady Vols.
Prior to coming to UT, she had been playing for Bowling Green. She was finding a lot of success there, being named the Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year the season before transferring. However, her love for the game wasn't as strong as it once was.
She needed a change. She found it in Tennessee.
"It's meant so much to me," she said. "It's helped me find myself again as a person. I don't want to say I lost my love but at the beginning of the fall I didn't really like it as much as I had before growing up."
Gottshall finds her passion once again through her coaches and teammates.
"Being around each other every day, it's kind of helped me find that again," she said. "I can truly let myself loose with it. They have helped me grow as a person and as a player."
Gottshall's passion for the game was on full display against Alabama in the SEC Tournament semifinals. She was amped up, screaming in outbursts of cheering for her teammates who came up with big outs, dancing in the dugout and yelling in excitement when she delivered the game-winning strikeout that sent the team to the SEC Tournament title game.
"I just get so fired up. I love seeing their hard work pay off," Gotshall said about her teammates coming up with big plays. "I don't know how else to show them that but yelling and screaming."
That fiery passion is going to keep coming too.
"I love this team, I love this game and I'm just out there having a great time," she said.
Gottshall is 13-1 this season and has a 1.7 ERA helping lead the Lady Vols to an SEC regular season title and SEC Tournament Championship. Her efforts also helped this team receive their highest seed in the NCAA Tournament, coming in as the fourth overall highest seed.
She is the starter for Tennessee's first game of the tournament against Northern Kentucky.