Softball and faith are the two things Leslie Bridges feels define her life.
A senior on the field, Bridges graduated in December with an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and is working on her master’s degree in business.
“I feel like really my whole life is pretty much softball, school and walking with the Lord,” Bridges said. “I feel like my biggest passion is definitely to love the Lord and see other people love him too. Whether it’s on my team, off my team, just really anywhere.”
In addition to her involvement with Campus Outreach when she has time, Bridges is about to start her fourth softball season at Murray State.
She hopes her team builds off its undefeated fall season.
“I really think that we’re in a good place right now and we’re going to be starting off well,” Bridges said. “I think that we’ve got a group of 20 girls who are focused and who are committed to working hard and getting better every day. It’s just put us in a really good spot to go into season (this) week.”
Head Coach Kara Amundson said she has watched Bridges, one of only two seniors, grow as both a player and a leader on the team.
“She’s definitely stepped into a leadership role over the past two years, especially since I’ve been able to be the head coach here and been able to see her develop,” Amundson said. “She’s not somebody who’s going to be incredibly vocal all the time, but she doesn’t need to be.
“She does a really good job of talking in small groups, and leading in small groups, which I think is a great thing to have out of a leader. “
Amundson said Bridges is not an in-your-face type of player, but leads in her own, unique effective ways.
In addition to Bridges’ growth as a leader, Amundson said Bridges has matured as a softball player.
One of Bridges’ most exciting moments in softball came early in her college career, however. As a freshman, she secured Murray State as the last team to qualify for the OVC Championships with a two-run home run as a pinch hitter.
“That’s one of my favorite stories,” Bridges said. “We had to take the series to get into the conference tournament. I think that I started the games on Saturday – I’m pretty sure I might have struck out maybe four times that day combined – so ended up getting benched, with good reason.”
She said coming into that Sunday, she knew there was a possibility she might get to pinch hit.
“I was just trying to mentally prepare myself and go into the day calm, leaving the day before behind,” she said.
She popped the first pitch high in the air and foul, but the catcher fumbled the ball to the ground, giving Bridges a second chance.
“The next pitch (the pitcher) throws me ends up going over the fence, and puts us ahead, and we end up winning the game,” Bridges said. “That was the first home run of my college career.”
Despite an exciting beginning, both Bridges and Amundson want nothing more than an enjoyable and successful end to Bridges’ career, with a strong legacy of her faith on and off the field.
Amundson said Bridges has seen a lot of changes over the past four years in the development of the program.
Amundson said Bridges will be able to say she helped set standards for the team in terms of softball performance and in terms of what kind of people Amundson wants for the program.
“Leslie is the epitome of what you want a student-athlete to be like,” Amundson said. “In terms of what she does in the classroom, what she does on the softball field, but even more so the kind of person that she is. And I think that’s going to be her legacy.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Staff writer