By LARRY VAUGHT
Coach Rachel Lawson doesn’t want to say that freshman outfielder Kayla Kowalik of Texas has been a surprise this year with the role she’s played offensively and in center field.
“She was obviously a very big recruit for us. We know that she is super talented and incredibly strong. I don’t think her play has come as a surprise because of that,” Lawson said. “It’s been nice that it has come a little bit quicker than most freshmen can do it but she is an exceptional talent.”
The Kentucky freshman wears No. 99, something she started doing in travel ball at age 8.
“They asked what number I wanted and I said 100. You can only have two numbers (on your jersey) and 99 was the next best. I just stuck with it. It works for me,” Kowalik said.
Her fraternal twin, Gabbie, now plays at St. Louis. Both twins have been their conference player of the week this season.
“We don’t look alike. She is 27 seconds younger than me,” the UK freshman said. “Both of us always played softball. We picked up other sports, but softball was just kind of the thing we always came back to. I was a catcher and she pitched when we were growing up but decided pitching wasn’t for her and now she enjoys the outfield.”
Like most twins, they grew up doing everything together.
“This is our first time truly being apart and so far we are taking it well. I am having no problems but when we were young we definitely dressed alike and played the role of twins,” Kayla said. “As we got older we got our own personality and own sense of style. She is at St. Louis University that is not too terribly far from here. We are actually closer to each other than we are from home.
“I always knew I wanted to get out of Texas. I didn’t exactly know where but when I visited this campus it just felt like home. I have been dealing with 18 hours away from home, but it’s not that bad.”
She’s become a starter on a team stacked with seniors. She admits starting surprised her some but she took that as a reward for the hard work she’s always done.
“The coaches here are willing to give us a shot. I am very grateful for the chance they have given me,” she said. “If there is a role that I can fill, then I am happy to do whatever that might be and right now that is in center field.”