By David McCoy

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — To hear Hayley Dunning tell it, the pitcher who’s been arguably the best in the league this season basically fell into St. Thomas’ lap.

“I was looking for a mid-sized Catholic school, and me and my dad took like a road trip, over the summer, right before my senior year,” she said.

Notice she didn’t say anything about softball being part of her decision.

“At first it didn’t have to do with a whole lot, but then when I came here, and I heard about the program, talked with coach, met some of the girls, it was a really big decision because I knew that coming here would mean a lot to me, and I knew that I would get a lot better not only as a softball player but as a person,” Dunning said. “And so, it was pretty easy after that to make the decision to come here.”

But once she was here, well, she didn’t exactly inspire high expectations.

“No. You know, you hope, because she had potential. She threw hard, but it was all over the place,” coach John Tschida said.

Last year as a freshman, Dunning appeared in only seven games, and pitched just 10 innings.

“It’d be tough to get her in a game because she was pretty wild. So she didn’t get to pitch too much, because she could easily walk eight an inning last year,” Tschida said.

This year, naturally, she’s the Tommie’s workhorse. She leads the conference in wins, and is near the top in several other categories.

“She put a lot of time and work into it,” Tschida said.

Even more impressive, considering that most of that has come in road games, because of the weather.

“Especially playing in the domes, I’ve never really played in domes until coming to college here,” Dunning said.

Yeah, the fact that it’s still winter here until the softball season is almost over was shockingly missing from the recruiting pitch.

“I’m so happy I did, because it’s taught me so much about, not only the game but by myself, and I’m only a sophomore so there’s still so much still to go,” Dunning said.

David McCoy

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