When she throws from the circle, Webster University softball senior pitcher Trisha Thompson works to prevent the opposition from scoring. Through her nine starts in 2013, Thompson has recorded 11 shutouts in her two-plus years at Webster. The 11 shutouts put her at third all-time in the softball program, four behind the career leader — Crystal Wilson.
Thompson has 250 career strikeouts, fourth all-time in Webster history. She holds the single-game strikeout record with 18 in a seven-inning game on March 16.
When Thompson is in the classroom, she studies prevention of a different variety. Thompson, a psychology major, takes an interest in sports psychology and developmental psychology. Her internship with CHADS (Communities Healing Adolescent Depression and Suicide) Coalition for Mental Health helps her prevention methods for children’s mental illnesses.
“It’s so important,” Thompson said. “… I did tallying for a middle school. You could see by their learning about the signs of suicide and depression that their education of it increased so much in that one-hour presentation that they saw. I get to hear stories from the presenters about how certain kids will stand up in front of their school and say they suffer from depression and that you need to take this seriously.
“I have suffered from depression for a very long time. I was one of those sufferers in silence. It’s really great to educate kids. Prevention is one of the big things that they do. I think it’s a very big deal.”
Thompson’s path to Webster
Thompson, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., graduated from Xavier College Preparatory (Ariz.) in 2010. She started playing softball when she was in first grade. Thompson said she chose pitching because her aunt — Lynn Wurth (Mooney), who is in the Arizona Softball Foundation Hall of Fame — pitched professionally in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Before coming to Webster, Thompson said she gained valuable life experience on a mission trip with her church, First United Methodist Church of Phoenix. Thompson and members of her youth group went to Pucallpa, Peru, in 2008. While there, Thompson volunteered at Refugio de Esparanza, a private school that teaches children with mental and physical handicaps. She said she painted a playground with a watercolor brush, as that was the only tool the school had available.
“I know how to caulk a whole house now,” Thompson said. “I know how to properly build certain things. Knowing those little things I do can impact their life, it makes me feel really good that I can be a positive influence on people.”
Webster softball coach Chris Eaton said he watched some videos of Thompson while she pitched for the Xavier Gators and got in contact with her through email. He said he was interested because of how well Thompson played at the level of she was playing.
After coming in contact with Eaton, Thompson narrowed her choices down to DePauw University (Ind.), Oberlin College (Ohio) and Webster. Thompson picked Webster. She decided on Division-III softball because she knew softball wasn’t going to be her entire life.
Prevention, on and off the field
Thompson came to Webster with 60 credit hours through a dual-enrollment program in high school. Though she is in her third year at Webster, she is academically a senior and will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.
Thompson’s mindset of prevention translates into her routines on and off the field. She said she babysits children, and she is fascinated by how different instances influence children and how they respond to certain events.
“If you’re playing a sport and you don’t ever stretch or lift or do anything like that, and you go out and you just decide to play, you’re a lot more likely to get hurt,” Thompson said. “That ‘intervention,’ where you have to get surgery, you have to do rehab, all these things is a lot more expensive and a lot more cost time-wise and everything than if you had been doing stretches before and warming up.
“It’s the same reason why I like children so much — in that way, I can help them with a preventative source for later like psychological disorders or if they go through traumas so they can learn how to deal with them more easily.”
As an intern with CHADS, Thompson works in a variety of ways, from social media for upcoming events to researching data to working at middle schools with presentations on bullying and mental illnesses such as depression.
Marian McCord, executive director of CHADS, said Thompson has brought in a “ray of sunshine and energy” to the not-for-profit organization.
“Our resources are tight, so it’s just great to have an extra set of hands and a willing and eager heart to help,” McCord said. “(Thompson) just has a pleasant, enthusiastic personality.
“I think she has gotten some insight into mental illness and the devastation of mental illness. I think she’s become more aware of the damaging effects and the stigma of mental illness.”
Eaton said when Thompson does give up a run on the field, she doesn’t let it get to her too much.
“She’s done really well. She’s been a leader in the circle all three years she’s been here,” Eaton said. “Even if she allows a hit or home run, she just focuses in on what she needs to need for the next batter.”
To-do list: SLIAC championship, doctorate degree
Thompson helped put the tarp on the field of Blackburn Park after the Gorloks’ split doubleheader with Iowa Wesleyan College on Saturday, March 23. Thompson said putting the tarp on the field was a new experience for her when she came to St. Louis.
“In Arizona, … I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a team (tarping the field),” Thompson said.
Thompson will start about half of the Gorloks’ games this season, Eaton said before the season began. Thompson knows pitching is the only way she can help her team on the field and uses that as motivation to prevent runs from scoring.
“I don’t bat. I sacrificed that my freshman year,” Thompson said. “I don’t base run either. I don’t do any other fielding. My sole focus is on pitching. The only way for me to give to the team is through that source. So, I’d better be good at it, or else I’m not going to be playing — and I want to play.”
Thompson is part of a softball squad that searches for its first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship since 2009. Conference games begin Friday, March 29 versus Eureka College (Ill.). No matter the outcome of Thompson’s final season, she wants to use her experiences in Peru, at CHADS, in the classroom and on the field to earn a doctorate and pursue a career in psychology.
“That’s what I want to do,” Thompson said. “I want to positively influence people with my career. I want to get a doctorate in psychology and work with people and try to help them be better people for themselves and others.”