Who is Payton Gottshall? Tennessee softball pitcher is one of the best in the 2024 WCWS

Tennessee fans are quite familiar with having someone named Peyton throw a ball with great velocity, accuracy and success to help their beloved Vols win games.

More than 25 years after he last suited up for Tennessee in a football game, Peyton Manning is still beloved in the Knoxville area and throughout much of the rest of the state.

Now, the Vols have another standout Peyton — or, in this case, a Payton.

Payton Gottshall has been an instrumental force in helping Tennessee softball earn a No. 3 overall national seed — the highest placement for the Lady Vols in program history. She has also been integral their advancement to the super regional stage of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, where her team will face off against SEC foe Alabama in Knoxville.

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Along with Karlyn Pickens, Gottshall has allowed Tennessee to be the most dominant pitching team in college softball this season. The Lady Vols’ staff ERA of 1.40 heading into the super regionals is the lowest among 296 Division I teams.

Ahead of Tennessee’s series against Alabama, which starts Friday and will determine whether it advances to the Women’s College World Series for a second-consecutive season, here’s what you need to know about Gottshall:

Who is Payton Gottshall?

Payton Gottshall is a graduate student pitcher on the Tennessee softball team who was a first-team all-SEC selection this season.

This season, her second with the Lady Vols, Gottshall has a 20-4 record and a 1.21 ERA. Her ERA ranks her just behind Pickens, who is at 1.15. Tennessee is the only program with multiple pitchers among the top 10 players in ERA.

Most recently, she threw all five innings in the Lady Vols’ NCAA regional victory against Virginia on May 18, giving up no runs and three hits while striking out five and walking none.

Those accomplishments are coming off a strong senior season in 2023 in which she went 16-2 in a team-leading 29 appearances while recording a 1.65 ERA and 130 strikeouts.

She saved some of her best performances for some of her team’s biggest games last season, throwing a no-hitter in a win over Northern Kentucky to open the 2023 NCAA Tournament and tossing a complete game shutout in a series-clinching win over Texas in the super regionals that sent the Lady Vols to their first Women’s College World Series since 2015.

Gottshall is a Massillon, Ohio native who was a first-team all-Ohio selection as both a junior and senior at Perry High School.

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Why did Payton Gottshall transfer from Bowling Green?

As closely associated with the Tennessee program as Gottshall has been over the past two seasons, she actually began her college career elsewhere.

Gottshall played her first three college seasons at Bowling Green, about 150 miles northwest of her hometown. After an abbreviated freshman season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gottshall was a first-team all-Mid-American Conference honoree, in 2021 and 2022. As a sophomore in 2021, she ranked sixth nationally in strikeouts, with 282, and the following year, she bested that mark, finishing second, with 374. Across those two seasons, Gottshall threw three perfect games.

Following the 2022 season, and having established herself as one of the sport’s most statistically decorated pitchers, Gottshall opted to transfer. Her decision came shortly after Bowling Green coach Sarah Willis left to accept the same position at Bradley.

“(Willis) was a big factor in that,” Gottshall said in April 2023 to Extra Inning Softball. “That’s not the only reason that I went in either, though. I absolutely loved my team at BG and everything, but some of the goals and things that I want to accomplish weren’t adding up in large part. With [Coach Willis] leaving, it was just kind-of perfect timing. I just couldn’t see myself there any longer.”

Though she was set to take three college visits, Gottshall committed to Tennessee, the first of those visits, having seen all she needed to see.

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Payton Gottshall stats

Here’s a look at Gottshall’s year-by-year production, beginning with her first season at Bowling Green and continuing into her time at Tennessee (with the 2024 season obviously not yet complete):

  • 2024: 20-4 record, 1.21 ERA, 155 strikeouts, 26 walks, eight complete games in 139 innings pitched

  • 2023: 16-2 record, 1.65 ERA, 130 strikeouts, 22 walks, five complete games in 110 innings pitched

  • 2022: 27-13 record, 1.66 ERA, 374 strikeouts, 53 walks, 29 complete games in 253.1 innings pitched

  • 2021: 20-12 record, 2.41 ERA, 282 strikeouts, 67 walks, 25 complete games in 201.2 innings pitched

  • 2020: 11-5 record, 2.48 ERA, 128 strikeouts, 37 walks, nine complete games in 87 innings pitched

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Who is Payton Gottshall? Tennessee softball pitcher is one of the NCAA's best