Free State softball ace Tatum Clopton repeats as Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Although she never got to throw a pitch for the Firebirds this season, Free State junior Tatum Clopton has been named the Gatorade Kansas Softball Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Adjusted to account for the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down most spring sports seasons across the country, the 2019-20 award recognizes Clopton not only for athletic excellence but also for the academic achievement and character she has shown on and off the field.
The athletic accomplishments that earned Clopton the award came with her club team, the DeMarini Aces. Last summer, at 16-and-under nationals a couple of months after leading Free State to its second consecutive Class 6A state title, Clopton struck out 22 batters and allowed just five hits in 12 innings for the Aces. Then, in the fall, after moving up to the 18-and-under team, Clopton posted a 0.91 earned-run average while striking out an average of more than two batters per inning.
Ranked as the No. 10 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class by Softball America, Clopton is committed to Oklahoma State and plans to sign with the Cowboys in November.
Off the field, Clopton has volunteered locally as a youth softball and volleyball coach and also been a member of the Free State choir. She owns a weighted 3.71 GPA and said recently she spent the spring sharpening her mental approach to softball while waiting to return to the field.
“I think I actually benefited from this whole quarantine,” Clopton said. “Because it gave me a chance to really study the game and work on that side of things more. I’ve really never had time to do that.”
Clopton said she reworked her swing at the plate, tweaked parts of her pitching motion and watched film of both herself and replays of several past Women’s College World Series games.
“Why not learn from the best there is, right,” she said.
The Free State senior-to-be also spent time working on her game with her younger sister, Kinsey, who will be a Free State freshman next season, and her parents, who played and coached college softball.
“I’m so fortunate because, in softball, all you need to work on your game is a pitcher and a catcher,” Clopton said.
Currently back to playing club ball with the Aces, who already have played in a couple of tournaments this month, Clopton and her Free State teammates have turned their focus to 2021 and their goal of winning a third state title before graduating.