Walker hitting her stride in second season

Sophomore Tyler Walker is second on the Gophers in batting average.

Drew Claussen

Tyler Walker didn’t wait very long to show what she was capable of as a freshman. She had her first hit, run, RBI, home run and stolen base in her first collegiate game.

She didn’t let up after that season-opening game against Kent State, either. The San Jose, Calif., native set a team record for batting average by a freshman.

“I came in with no expectations — I just wanted to play,” Walker said. “Setting a new school record was just an honor and a blessing.”

Walker’s .380 average also led the team by more than 40 points.

This season, she has picked up where she left off and is second on the team with a .404 batting average through 17 games.

She leads the team with 11 runs scored, four home runs and a .719 slugging percentage.

“Tyler’s a tremendous hitter, and she just needs to continue to swing the bat,” head coach Jessica Allister said.

Walker has been playing softball since age 9. She said her parents got her into the sport because her dad is an umpire for the Pac-12 Conference. Her brother was a junior college baseball player in California.

“It’s always kind of run in the family,” Walker said.

She was a four-year varsity player at Valley Christian High School and said playing in college crossed her mind when she made varsity right after eighth grade.

“She slapped [at the ball] for a long time through high school. She started swinging her senior year,” Allister said. “She’s just got tremendous bat path, she stays through the zone for so long and she’s just so athletic.”

Moving from a state where it’s warm and sunny to Minnesota may sound odd, but Walker said she fell in love with the University on her unofficial visit during her junior year of high school.

“It was 20 degrees outside, and people were wearing shorts,” Walker said of her visit over Halloween weekend. “I thought it was absolutely crazy, and I loved the atmosphere.”

Walker said she still has trouble with one of the key elements of Minnesota — snow.

“I haven’t exactly learned how to walk in it yet,” Walker said. “It’s something different, something that I’ve never been in before.”

Walker received offers from other Division I teams, but she said Minnesota’s team youth helped lead her to the school.

Walker said she wasn’t concerned about the dreaded sophomore slump.

“I just don’t think about it,” she said. “If I just hit the ball and have fun, there’s nothing that I need to worry about.”

Allister said Walker has handled the sport’s mental challenges well.

“It goes back to [how] softball is a game of failure, and you have to be able to deal with the failure,” Allister said. “[Walker] has done a great job of staying the course and trusting that she’s a great hitter.”