For Savannah Huffstetler, this was the last chance to get her dream softball scholarship offer.
The Lambert junior infielder was at the University of Tennessee’s 2013 Christmas Camp on Saturday and Sunday because she had already been to a Volunteers camp over the summer and had already made an unofficial visit in the Fall and was waiting, just waiting, for Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to say they wanted her to play softball in Knoxville for the next four years. If it didn’t happen now, Huffstetler thought, it was time to move on.
So when the camp ended Sunday and the Weeklies pulled Huffstetler aside to offer her a scholarship, she didn’t hesitate to make a verbal commitment to Tennessee on the spot.
“It’s like the best feeling,” Huffstetler said. “I didn’t think it would be this much of a relief.”
If Huffstetler eventually signs with Tennessee, she will join one of the top college softball programs in the country. The Volunteers lost to No. 1 Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series finals this past season and finished 52-12. Since the Weeklies took over in 2001, the Volunteers have been to the WCWS five times and had 25 All-Americans.
That résumé was enough to sway Huffstetler’s allegiance away from the University of Georgia in eighth grade. She was a life-long Bulldogs fan until then. Still is – except when it comes to softball. But that eighth grade year, Tennessee made another WCWS under the Weeklies, and Huffstetler was hooked.
When she attended her first camp in Knoxville this past summer, everything Huffstetler came to admire about the Volunteers program was confirmed – the team, the coaches, the facilities.
“It would be kind of crazy to turn away from it,” Huffstetler said.
Huffstetler was one of the top hitters in the county last season hitting .425 with 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 34 RBIs. She was a big reason Lambert finished a program-best 30-5, won its first region title and reached the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
The second team all-state selection was also a versatile fielder. She played shortstop the first 10 games of the season while regular starter Megan Whitlatch was injured, then moved to second base when Whitlatch returned. Huffstetler said she could even play outfield at Tennessee.
“I’ll fill in wherever they need me,” she said.
Those physical skills surely stood out to Tennessee, but Lambert head coach Dana Corr said what makes Huffstetler the Lady Longhorns’ first ever Division I commitment is her intangible qualities.
“She’s definitely ready for that level,” Corr said. “She’s just so smart on the field. She knows the game. She got the ‘it’ factor. Savannah’s talented to where she had the physical talent and the mental aspect. She’s tough.”