It's a dream come true for Hannah Devotie. She's a Lady Vol.
The former Science Hill standout won't be on scholarship this season, but will be a member of the University of Tennessee softball team.
“I think there are actually a few who are not on scholarship,” said Devotie on Monday. “Coach Karen Weekly said once you're on the team, nobody knows. She said it's not a given how much you play, and we're basically all equal.”
This isn't just a Division I softball program. This is a program that was a play or two — or a pitch or two — away from winning a national championship earlier this year.
And Johnson City's Devotie could find herself on center stage for the Lady Vols in the spring. That's a daunting task, and Devotie admitted it's a big challenge.
“I try not to think about it,” said Devotie, whose twin sister Megan has signed to play college softball at King University. “I think adrenalin will kick in. I'm very excited, but I'm pretty nervous because of all the pressure.
“In the later innings, maybe when one of the catchers gets on, I think I will run for them. And I might play in the outfield a little bit.”
Devotie batted .309 with 12 stolen bases for the Hilltoppers last season. Those numbers didn't get her foot in the door at UT. What gave her a chance was the UT speed camp last December.
“She looks like she knows how to run, and she's really fast,” said Science Hill head coach Jerry Higgins. “And it's just her savvy for the game, knowing how to play the game. Her and her sister both have that. They know things you can't teach, and I'm sure Karen Weekly saw that right off.”
At the camp, Devotie asked Coach Weekly about walking on, and they kept in touch via e-mail. When Weekly determined there was room on the roster, Devotie was allowed to join the team.
“I've always dreamed of playing at UT,” said Devotie. “I guess I went to the camp as a way of getting them to notice me.”
Devotie has already gotten a taste of being a Lady Vols' athlete.
“We had a pretty difficult summer conditioning program,” said Devotie. “I expect things to be pretty difficult with a lot of practice.”
Devotie said she just moved to campus over the weekend, and doesn't have a feel for what the players are thinking about last season's near miss. The Lady Vols are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma in the best-of-three championship series. UT led 3-0 going to the bottom of the 11th inning in game one, but the Lady Sooners rallied to tie and won 5-3 in 12 innings. Oklahoma then clinched in the second game.
“I just met the team, so I don't really know what they are thinking about that,” said Devotie. “I just want to be able to contribute in some way to help win a national championship.”
One reason for getting to this point, said Devotie, is gymnastics.
“I was a gymnast from five years old until I was 16,” she said. “I think you learn a lot of things from gymnastics, like how to condition and keep your body in good form. I think it helps being an overall athlete in general.”
It also helped having a sister who could push her on a daily basis.
“We are both very competitive,” said Devotie. “I had someone there who I always tried to beat, and she always tried to beat me, too. It helped both of us become better athletes.
“I think she will do fine at King. I think she will get a lot of experience at second base, and get a lot of at-bats.”
As for school, Devotie said she plans on majoring in kinesiology, and eventually becoming a physical therapist.