Clarksville, Ark.-University of the Ozarks senior pitcher Stephany Henson has been a model of consistency during her four-year career on the softball team.
The hard-working right-hander from Coal Hill, Ark., has been a mainstay in the circle since her freshman season. She has thrown 486.2 career innings, most in school history, and has never missed a game due to an injury. She has earned the respect of her coach and teammates for that durability and toughness.
“She has stayed healthy and has always worked hard to be an impact pitcher,” said head coach Elizabeth Caroscio. “Her durability is just a testament to her stamina. She built up that endurance before college and then expanded it when she got here.”
Henson’s reputation as a hard-nosed player is evident in her willingness to play through pain. She has only been to the training room twice over the last four years, and only because her coach demanded it.
“Coach made me go to the training room last year,” said Henson. “I wasn’t going to go, but she sent me. My shoulder was bothering me. I went another time this year for my hand. I usually just tough it out. I prefer to play through pain rather than sit on the bench.”
Henson made an immediate impact as a freshman. She garnered All-Conference honors after finishing seventh in the American Southwest Conference in shutouts (3) and eighth in complete games (15). She posted ten wins that season and even had a perfect game through six innings against Hendrix College.
“It is very rare to a have a freshman come in and make an impact like Stephany did,” said Caroscio. “She has always been a hard worker. She understands her role as the leader of the pitching staff.”
Henson wasn’t sure how much she would play her rookie year. She not only excelled that season, but has produced four quality years like it. She will end her career with school records in appearances (97), starts (79) and innings pitched (486.2). She is second with 202 strikeouts.
“I was scared to death my freshman season and I honestly thought I wouldn’t play,” said Henson. “I never thought I would own school records. Coming from a small town I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
Caroscio points to her ace’s composure and mental toughness in the circle as her top attributes.
“She has grown so much in her career,” said Caroscio. “She really keeps her composure on the field. She has displayed a willingness to learn. Every year she has worked on something new. She wants to continually better herself as a pitcher. She doesn’t get rattled. Her composure on the mound is her greatest strength.”
She shattered the single-season record this year in appearances with 29. On March 16, she teamed with Kaci Foster to toss a combined no-hitter.
“I think my stamina and composure are strengths,” said Henson. “I don’t want to ever give up. I want to fight through the adversity. I try to keep my emotions in and keep the team up. Prior to this season I wasn’t real vocal. But this season I am a little more vocal and I do consider myself a leader on the team.”
Henson has also displayed a team-first attitude, playing wherever her coach has asked. She has seen action in the outfield and has taken 70 at-bats.
“She will play wherever she is asked,” said Caroscio. “She stepped up huge in the outfield and at the plate this season. She is an athlete. At the beginning of the year she told me she would do whatever the team needed.”
“I love to hit,” said Henson. “I was real nervous about playing in the outfield because I had never played there. I feel a lot more confident about it now, but at first I was worried. I do like it.”
Off the field, Henson is known for her quick wit and jovial personality.
“Stephany is a jokester,” said Caroscio. “She is a funny kid. She is always positive and always lightens the mood. But she is always a very hard and diligent worker.”
“I don’t prank a lot of people, but I always have a comment for everything,” said Henson. “My teammates would get me back if I pulled pranks. My cousin and I always one-up everybody. We try to quote movie lines to be funny.”
Henson will graduate in December with a degree in general studies and would eventually like to coach softball at the High School level.
“Being a student-athlete has definitely taught me responsibility,” said Henson. “It taught me to manage my time wisely. I’ve learned it the hard way, but I feel like I’ve grown a lot.”
Caroscio believes Henson has the qualities and traits to coach after her playing career.
“I think she can relate well with the kids,” said Caroscio. “She is a great teacher of the game. She has a drive and passion for it. She works well with the young girls in the community. Kids are drawn to her.”