Graduation, it's not just for seniors any more.
Hatter softball redshirt-sophomore Taylor Cochran will be earning her Bacherlor's Degree this week after just three years at Stetson University. An English major with a Spanish minor, Cochran will join traditional softball seniors Jordan Cleghorn (Elementary Education) and Chelsea Whalley (Integrative Health Science) as Stetson graduates.
At the age of 20, Cochran may be the youngest student in Stetson's Class of 2013 to receive a diploma.
"She brought a lot of (college) credits in with her from her high school years," Stetson head coach Frank Griffin said. "Obviously she has a good head on her shoulders, she is going to be able to work towards a Master's Degree, and it's going to be a good opportunity for her."
Cochran did indeed spend the better part of her final two years at Auburndale High School taking college level courses. By the time she enrolled at Stetson in 2010, she had already earned 64 credits and an Associate of Arts degree.
In her first season on the softball squad, Griffin elected to redshirt Cochran to give her more time to develop her pitching skills. Nevertheless, Cochran was already diligently working towards her degree. It wasn't until the start of this academic year that she realized that she could officially graduate in three years.
"I had a regular class load my first two years, but I had to do my senior research and cram all my senior classes in this year," Cochran said. "So last semester and this semester have been extra busy."
All her work has paid off. After recently receiving an "A" on her senior research project, Cochran is on the verge of completing her Bacherlor's Degree and is already looking forward to the next phase of her academic career.
"I have applied to graduate school I am waiting to hear if I got into the program here at Stetson so I can continue playing," Cochran said. "That would be a huge benefit for me because I really love playing softball. I definitely want to be here as much as I can."
With her redshirt year of 2011 not counting against her eligibility, Cochran will still have two more years to play softball while she works on her Master's Degree.
In the circle, Cochran has continued to improve this season and has performed well in several situations. On March 19, she pitched all eight innings of an 8-7 extra-inning Stetson win over Cornell to earn her first collegiate victory. She maintains a 2.90 ERA in A-Sun games, and has allowed just one run over her last 10.1 innings of work.
"I just finally came around and everything clicked with me this year," Cochran said. "In the fall I just realized how good our team is and how well we work together. This spring, all the pitchers were working well together and the team was hitting, so I started to think we can do this. It's been tough, we have had our ups and downs, but I think we are finally coming together. It's been a really good year."
Stetson (30-20) will head into this week's A-Sun tournament as the no. 6 seed, and will face no. 3 seed FGCU in the opening round Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. If the Hatters make a deep run in the tournament, it will likely mean Cochran, Cleghorn and Whalley will not be present for graduation ceremonies in DeLand on Saturday.
"As much as I really want to participate in graduation, I think it is more important to play softball," Cochran said. "I have already been through a lot of graduations, and I would rather have a ring than walk."