Taking the mound with an Easton bat in hand, most pee-wee ball players can only dream of making it in the bigs.
For most, they won’t ever get the chance to play professionally. They might not even pick up a bat in high school or college. But senior pitcher Shelby Turnier, the UCF softball queen of strikeouts, wins and anything else related to pitching, has accomplished all three and earned herself a ticket into the big leagues.
Selected as the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Chicago Bandits, Turnier is the highest draft pick in UCF softball history and has beaten all odds against her. Turnier is the one out of every 1,484 college athletes to make it professional.
“Up until the last two years, I’ve always thought I was gonna graduate and pursue my career in accounting,” Turnier said. “But now, it has really opened my eyes to the possibility that I could ride out softball to another level and keep pursuing my dream for as long as I can.”
The Palm Beach Gardens native had a stellar high school career at Palm Beach Gardens High School. She has won county and state awards, such as Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Palm Beach Post Player of the Year.
As a freshman at UCF, Turnier made a swift impression and became a monumental part of the Knights roster in 2013, playing in 30 games, making 22 starts and winning 14 games.
Turnier has had an incredible career with the Knights, receiving honors such as NFCA Division I All-American First Team, ESPN National Player of the Week, NFCA National Pitcher of the Week, 2014 All-American Athletic Conference First Team, 2013 NFCA Division I Scholar Athlete and Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
To sweeten the deal, she has recorded three no-hitters in her career, and this year holds a 13-13 record. In her collegiate career, she has thrown 14 complete games, fanned 187 opposing batters, holds a 2.38 earned run average and has started in 25 games all in 167 2/3 innings work.
“They are playing for this,” Turnier said. “This is their No. 1 goal and so that really pushes me to do whatever I can to help us win this season and to push us further into post-season.”
She ranks second in UCF softball history in career wins with 72 and needs six more wins to break the program record of 78, which was set by Mackenzie Audas in 2015. She also sits third on the list for career shutouts with 21.
Only two other UCF softball players have been drafted into the NPF: Kahley Novak, drafted by the Dallas Charge in 2015 and Stephanie Best, who was drafted by the New England Riptide in 2005. Two other players, Allison Kime (2008) and Breanne Javier (2009), joined the league as free agents.
“The basic thing to understand is that you still have a job to do,” head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie said. “This is the first thing on her plate and she has to take care of business with what she has with the university and then, realizing that there is another step for her. I know she is going to have a long career ahead of her as long as she wants to stay in it.”
Turnier will sign with her new team, the Bandits, after the 2016 college season.
Jean Racine is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.