A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Freshman Aubrey Leach has done her part to ensure the Tennessee softball team doesn’t face that problem.
On the brutally competitive field of Texas softball — where the University of Texas and Texas A&M routinely grab the state’s top talent — Leach, a Texas native, decided to be different and become the first player from the Lone Star State to play softball for co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly.
Leach, who is a political science major, attributes her interest in political science largely to her father, who works for the government as a federal agent.
Interestingly enough, with the 2016 Presidential Election just months away, the fields of politics and athletics contain a host of similarities.
Congress has developed a dysfunctional reputation, with the majority of the public viewing politicians as self-serving and untrustworthy. These qualities that have caused gridlock over significant issues.
In athletics, results on the field can suffer if the team experiences the same dysfunction. But the Vols (26-8, 6-3 SEC) have bonded despite 11 incoming freshmen.
“This team’s chemistry (off the field) is awesome,” Leach said. “We gel really well together. I guess the hardest part was working together on the field.”
On the field, Leach has grown into her role as the team’s starting second baseman, displaying characteristics every teammate and leader strive to achieve.
1) Experience. Despite being a freshman, Leach’s tenure as the Texas Sudden Impact softball club’s captain for four years helped ease the transition between club softball and college softball.
“Ralph and Karen (Weekly) expect a lot from us and we don’t play by classes,” Leach said. “Being in the infield you have to talk it up and be loud… being a leader is finding a way to motivate people even when they don’t want to be motivated.”
Leach is certainly leading by example, batting .333 in 34 games this season.
2) Dependability. There is no question that this Volunteer softball team is a batch of talented, yet young and inexperienced players. However, rather than using youth as an excuse, the freshmen established an inseparable bond through their common ground, especially between Leach and Brooke Vines.
“Aubrey has been my companion,” Vines said with a smile. “When it comes to trying to figure things out or trying to calm each other down, she’s been someone I can rely on and just have someone to talk to.”
3) Flexibility. Second base has been Leach’s home all season, but in the lineup, the Weekly’s have moved her from top to bottom.
“Aubrey can bat at the top,” Weekly said. “She can bat one, two, or nine. For us, nine is the second leadoff hitter… I don’t expect her to hit nine her whole career.”
Maybe she should. In the nine slot, Leach is batting .556.
4) Passion. Leach might only stand at 5-foot-4, but her competitive spirit and drive remind Weekly of Tennessee softball legend Lauren Gibson, a former All-American and SEC Player of the Year.
“Aubrey has had some ups and downs,” Weekly said. “But she is clearly a very good SEC player with a bright future. I think Aubrey is very hard on herself, she expects to make every play, and I want our players to be that way, but nobody makes every play.”
Leach did not detail her personal political views, but revealed a humorous observation.
“I think a lot of the controversy (in politics) is from the candidates being on such a differing range of spectrums,” Leach said. “It’s kind of like the lesser of two crazies.”
Tennessee softball established a pipeline in Texas when it snagged Leach, increasing its range of influence, but the team remains on the same side of the spectrum.
“I think we’re kinda hitting our stride right now and being that aggressive Tennessee softball team we know we can be,” Leach said.
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by Cody McClure