By Metz Camfield Assistant Director, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Ole Miss softball senior pitcher Carly Hummel is a long way from home in Bakersfield, Calif. Her journey to Oxford has included three years at the University of Memphis, multiple surgeries to her pitching hand and two stints with Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees. Now she has one more season to help make history again.
As a junior in high school in 2007, Hummel committed to play for Thees at Memphis after Thees got wind of the 5-foot-5 right-hander from a parent of another prospect she had been recruiting.
“She seemed really cool and I felt like our personalities really matched,” said Hummel of Thees upon first meeting her. “A lot of girls I knew went on to play at all these great schools but ended up hating it because they couldn’t get along with their coach. I thought from day one that she and I had always had a pretty good connection.”
After a strong freshman campaign for the Tigers in which she was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team, Hummel excelled as a sophomore in 2011 by leading Memphis to its first NCAA Tournament berth in program history.
As a sophomore, Hummel set school records in ERA (1.46), opponent batting average (.140) and shutouts (8). Hummel averaged 8.15 strikeouts per seven innings that season, and became the first pitcher in school history to throw three no-hitters.
“When I was a sophomore I was at the peak of my performance,” Hummel said. “Coach Thees, myself and the team went places that it hadn’t been to ever and hasn’t since. It was an important year for us as players, her as a coach and Memphis as a program.”
Thees, who started the Memphis softball program in 2005, caught the attention of Ole Miss with her impressive and quick construction of the Tigers’ program, and was named the Rebels’ fourth head coach in program history on June 30, 2011 following Memphis’ historic season.
Hummel’s first response to the news of her head coach taking another job, “Take me.”
But it wasn’t that easy for Hummel. Not wanting to leave her teammates and friends, Hummel decided to stay at Memphis for what would have been her junior season, but sustained an injury to her pitching hand and had to undergo surgery. Because the injury occurred so early in the season, Hummel was able to log a medical redshirt and reevaluate things before ultimately deciding to transfer to Ole Miss.
“The injury was a blessing in disguise,” Hummel said. “This is the best place I ever could have imagined. This is awesome, and all the people I’ve met here and all the friends and family. It’s a cool thing when the South takes over a California girl’s heart.”
Reunited with her coach, Hummel led the Rebels as a junior last season in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts, but never felt quite right. After the season, Hummel went under the knife again and had her second surgery to her hand to attempt to get it back to where she was in 2011.
“When I agreed to do the first surgery I wasn’t under the impression that it was going to be as intense as it was,” Hummel said. “It was hard, but I’m back now to where I used to be as a sophomore. It takes times like that.”
“She gets down like anybody else when we lose, but she doesn’t stay down,” Thees said. “She gets mad, and then she says, ‘Give me the ball, let’s go. I’m going to figure this out.’ That’s one thing, when people get down, can you bounce back? She has been able to do that, and because she’s been able to do that in softball games, she’s been able to do that through her injuries as well.”
Because she has pitched in an NCAA Regional, and because she does have the experience she does, many Rebels go to Hummel and look to her as a leader on the team. Hummel said it isn’t a role she ever aspired to attain, but it more or less just came from experience. Hummel is fine with being a leader on the team, but said she doesn’t want to be treated any differently. Leadership to her is more about attitude than what year you are.
When asked, both Thees and Hummel agreed they each could see a bit of themselves in the other. Thees said she likes “feisty” players, and that she herself was a feisty player and is still a pretty feisty coach.
“If we can get more kids like Carly, our team is going to be a perennial NCAA team and we’re going to be in the top 20,” Thees said. “She wants this and because of that she’s very outspoken. She speaks her mind, she wants it and she wants other people to push it and make it great. She can lead us to where we want to go.”
Now a senior and feeling healthy again, Hummel will attempt to regain her 2011 form and create more firsts at her second school.
“She can be a part of this team and help take us to our first regional just like she helped Memphis, and that’s been her goal,” Thees said. “When she transferred here she wanted to do what she did at Memphis here at Ole Miss. And how special would that be for her to be able to accomplish that?”
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