Softball, Sports, Women's Sports

Shayna Kimbrough will leave behind a great career at LBSU

Shayna Kimbrough waits at third base, ready to tag up and score when the UC Davis outfielder makes the catch. She races home and crosses the plate without realizing that she is now tied for most runs in Long Beach State history.

An ordinary home game against UC Davis on March 29 went in the record books, and the milestone went unnoticed by Kimbrough, who only cared about the 8-0 win.

The senior shortstop said individual records and awards are distractions rather than accomplishments for her. It’s just that she takes pride in valuing the team above anything else.

“[I feel like] maybe if I keep hearing or checking [the stats] I’ll just be thinking about them too much,” Kimbrough explained. “I don’t like to do that.”

For a player that has received individual accolades most of her career, Kimbrough said she does not let success get to her head.

“My grandma, she’s a big softball fan, so she’ll be like, ‘you’re about to break this record,’” Kimbrough admitted. “And I’ll say, ‘I don’t want to know! Just don’t tell me!’”

After flourishing in high school, Kimbrough produced 54 hits, 24 runs and a .273 batting average as a freshman and earned an All-Big West honorable mention.

The following season, she hit .374, the second-highest average in a season in school history. Her numbers earned her the 2013 Big West Player of the Year award.

It was more of the same her junior year. She hit .395 and broke her own record with the new second-highest average in a season at LBSU. She totaled 34 runs and 73 hits that season and won her second major conference award in a row when she was named 2014 Big West Defensive Player of the Year.

Like all the other awards, she shrugged it off.

“I feel like I’m not the type of person that’s like, ‘oh my god, I got that!’ I’m really not,” Kimbrough said. “I mean, it was cool to get [two major awards], but I wasn’t talking about it for days. What I do like about it is that winning those awards means I made my team better, I guess.”

Head coach Kim Sowder said she wanted Kimbrough at LBSU after only watching her play once. Sowder admits she recruited her primarily for abilities on defense, and that she was willing to sacrifice some offense for an exceptional shortstop. She calls herself lucky that she got both with Kimbrough.

“Shortstops are hard to find,” Sowder said. “And she was really consistent and made all the plays. [She] had great mechanics, and then offensively she had the short game. She had some power and speed. I mean, she was kind of a no-brainer.”

On Kimbrough’s end, coming to LBSU was also an easy decision. The 49ers were the first to show real interest in bringing her in, and she immediately jumped at the chance to play for The Beach.

“[LBSU] was my first offer,” Kimbrough said. “When I came here on my visit, the city and the coaches were just amazing [and] so positive.”

Now in her final season as a 49er, Kimbrough, originally recruited for her defensive abilities, is on pace to finish as Long Beach State’s all-time leader in three major offensive categories; hits, runs and batting average. When she breaks any of those records, she said she would probably not be the first to know.

“[I feel like] maybe if I keep hearing or checking [the stats] I’ll just be thinking about them too much,” Kimbrough explained. “I don’t like to do that.” [Reuse of the same quote?]

Her teammates are quick to heap praise on her. Her best friend, senior centerfielder Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi, admits to admiring Kimbrough enough to follow her to LBSU from Oxnard.

“She influenced me to come here,” Tupua-Tautalatasi said. “Shayna is one of the best people you’ll ever meet. She’s kind, she’s humble and she’s very good. She’s not selfish. She’s just a really good friend.”

Kimbrough’s goals after softball reflect Tupua-Tautalatasi’s description of her friend’s altruism. Kimbrough wants to either coach young girls at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy, or become a juvenile probation officer.

“I want to help kids in some way,” Kimbrough said. “I feel like if I make a difference in someone’s life… I don’t know, that’s cool to me. I can take pride in that.”

When her time at LBSU does come to an end, Kimbrough said she would remember the atmosphere around the diamond and her teammates the most. She also said she might even appreciate the individual awards one day in retrospect.

“[I’ll miss] being with the team every day and coming out here and working for the same goals,” Kimbrough said. “To be Big West champs.”

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