For the first time since her freshman year Lady Vols All-American Raven Chavanne will enter the 2013 season without any setbacks.
“I don’t even remember what it was like until now,” the senior third baseman said. “I’m really excited to finally be healthy. It’s going to be my first complete season healthy and it’s nice to have some power to hit the ball to the outfield and hit some home runs.”
The four-year starter has the complete tool set. Whether it is her hitting ability, speed or cat-like reflexes at the “hot corner," she has stood out as one of the top players in college softball.
In the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native’s first three seasons at UT she has put up mesmerizing numbers. Not only has the left-handed slap hitting specialist led the team every one of those years in batting average, the two-time All-American has eclipsed the .400 average mark in every season.
Over three seasons of play she has compiled a career .444 average (264-for-594).
Chavanne is the quintessential contact hitter as she only struck out six times in 187 plate appearances a season ago.
“The key to consistent hitting is just staying inside yourself,” Chavanne said. “It’s important to stay calm and know that it is a game of failure. (Co-head coach) Ralph (Weekly) always says you can be an All-American of a sport and still fail seven times out of ten playing.”
When coaches dream about putting together the ideal lineup they imagine a few power hitters in the middle of the lineup that will drive in runs, but possibly the most important part of the lineup is having a leadoff hitter with speed that can get on base.
Chavanne has been that and more for co-head coaches Karen and Ralph Weekly, as she holds a career .507 on-base percentage.
“Even when I batted right handed I was always a leadoff hitter,” she said. “It’s something I’m used to and something I’ve been doing since playing travel ball. I always bat first in practice, too.”
But the real threat is what happens after she makes it to first base, whether it is on an infield slap bunt or a line drive back up the middle.
The former high school track star has put to use her speed on the base paths to produce runs for the Lady Vols. In 114 career stolen base attempts she has successfully swiped 102 of those.
“Her speed is definitely one of her benefits for her,” Lady Vol senior second baseman Lauren Gibson said of her roommate for the last four years. “She gets down the line like nobody else I’ve ever seen.”
But the senior is not just an offensive threat, but a solid third baseman as well.
Last season the Lady Vols finished first overall in the country in fielding percentage (.982) due to an infield that consists of two other All-Americans in shortstop Madison Shipman and Gibson.
“This is the first year I actually feel really comfortable at the hot corner,” Chavanne said. “I still have to coach myself because I played outfield for seventeen years of my life.”
While Chavanne is not big into paying attention to her stats and accolades it goes without notice that she is once again tabbed as part of the top 50 “Watch List” for 2013 USA Softball Player of the Year.
The past two seasons she has finished as a Top 10 Finalist for the award.
“It’s not something I’m consciously thinking about, I’m playing to help my team,” she said. “If I get that, it means I’m doing my part to help the team.”
This season Chavanne and her teammates hope for a season to remember and one to go down in the record books of Lady Vol softball. She looks to be one of the six seniors to lead the way.
“Being a Lady Vol has been some of the best four years of my life,” Chavanne said. “We aren’t just satisfied with getting to the College World Series. This year we want to win it.”