Payton Gottshall - Photo by Chris Kohley

Payton Gottshall is just a redshirt freshman for the BGSU softball team, and she is already having a major impact early in her career.

She has already proven to be the Falcon’s ace in the circle this season. Through 15 appearances and 13 starts, Gottshall has thrown 11 complete games and has an impressive 1.56 ERA, which currently is the best in the MAC by a wide margin.

“When I came on my visit to BG, I fell in love with the campus right away. It felt like home and Coach (Sarah) Willis was such an amazing person and coach and we clicked right away. One thing that is extremely important to me is my family, so when I found out BGSU was only a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from my house, I was ecstatic. It was far enough where I could be independent and be a college student, but close enough where I could go home to see my family and I wouldn't have to worry about them driving to come to see me play,” Gottshall said.

Starting an athletic career during a pandemic isn’t easy, but Gottshall made sure it wouldn’t define her.  With last season being cut short, it was time to reflect, not only on the shortened season, but appreciating the sport and everything she loves to play.

“The ending of last season really did crush me. We had been off to such a great start and it was heartbreaking to have it ended before we had gotten to MAC play. We had such a great group of girls and so many high hopes of where the season could have gone. But as a team, when we had moved into quarantine, we had created groups within the team where we would send daily videos or pictures of us doing a workout or something softball-related to make sure we were all working,” she said.

As heartbreaking as the abrupt end to last season was, getting back on the field this season has been equally as rewarding.

“This season has made me appreciate softball in ways that are hard to describe. I will just sit and think about playing and my heart starts racing in my chest and it's a feeling I never get tired of. There really isn't anything comparable to stepping on the field with my teammates and representing BGSU. But, coming back from COVID and being fortunate enough to have a season has been amazing,” she said.

But that didn’t mean that the struggles and heartbreak ended when the season started. After her amazing start, Gottshall suffered an MCL sprain and is currently trying to get back on the field.

“Even though we had to give up a lot to play, I am so thankful that we have the opportunity. Currently, I am unable to play due to an MCL sprain and it has made me reflect a lot on how much I get out of playing and it makes me so much more grateful for the opportunity to play. When this happened, I was crying pretty much the whole day, not because of the injury, but the thought that I wouldn't be able to play with my team for a couple of weeks. There isn't anything more I want other than to be able to help my team win and be my best for them,” she said.

Despite all circumstances, Gottshall stays ready for when it’s her time to return to game action.

“After having such a great start this season, the thing that helped me prepare the most coming into this year was the work and preparation I had done over the summer and our ‘off-time.’ My dad and I would go to my high school field when the weather allowed, we would pitch for about an hour or so and he would just really work with me on making sure my pitches and mechanics are sound. I was also fortunate enough to play in a travel ball summer league against some great competition to help me stay on my game,” Gottshall said.

To top all of it off, she has external motivation from the fans and MAC voters.

“I hope for our team to win the MAC, and even if we wouldn't, just show whoever made the preseason poll and put us in 8th place, that we are a much better team than they think. Just don't count us out,” she said.

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