CHARLESTON, S.C. - For Charleston Southern senior outfielder Annie Bakenhus, the journey to CSU began based on academics.
Although the Yucaipa, Calif. native originally started her collegiate career at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., Bakenhus quickly noticed something.
"They didn't have my major at B-C," Bakenhus admitted. "I was majoring in Biology, but I wanted to major in Kinesiology. CSU has a great Kinesiology department and I previously knew Jade (Gandara), so I ended up transferring here."
Her time spent at CSU encouraged the pursuit of her degree, but there was also a shift in thinking along the way.
"I want to continue on and get my masters in coaching once I graduate," Bakenhus said. "When I first came to CSU, I wanted to be a physical therapist and shadowed several during my time at CSU. However, I also want something more interactive and love the game, so that's why I want to get into coaching."
The love of softball originally took her to Daytona Beach, but an additional love of travel continues to guide Bakenhus moving forward.
"Softball could have taken me anywhere and I want to continue to pursue it," she said. "I could have gone to a school back home in California, but not many people get the opportunity to say they have gone across the country and experienced something different."
She continued, "I get to do all of these things and meet all of these people. Eventually, I want to see all 50 states – I want to experience it all because it is so different from back home. Currently though, I have not been anywhere above Virginia."
However, her travels may take her to the Northeast over the next few years as her brother is currently looking at making a trip.
"My brother is currently at Humboldt State and is looking at making a trip to New York after he graduates," she laughed. "I'm hoping to go with him and cross a few more off the list."
An athletic background runs in the Bakenhus family. Her brother competed in rugby, while her dad (football) and mother (volleyball) also played growing up. Bakenhus competed in both soccer and basketball, in addition to softball, but faced between a choice of travel basketball or travel softball, softball quickly won out.
Being left-handed, Bakenhus has lined up at both first base and multiple outfield positions in her playing career. However, there is one position she has eyed and would love to get a crack at trying.
"I wouldn't mind trying to play shortstop some time," she laughed. "I might get a little more action out there on the field. It does get kind of lonely in left field."
A two-time All-Conference selection earning recognition at both B-C and Charleston Southern, Bakenhus has been known for her prowess and patience at the plate. The senior outfielder leads the Bucs in multiple offensive categories this season including hits (59), runs scored (30), doubles (nine) and batting average (.341).
While most of her prowess comes through her discipline at the plate, she also has ascribed to a philosophy utilized by the reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich.
"Christian has a video out where he describes how a lot of hitters are mechanical and do drills, but he talks about how he goes until he feels it," Bakenhus said. "I really relate to that – if I'm feeling good, I'm good. I just go hit, don't think about it, and keep going until I feel good."
Her success at the plate has brought her recognition, so it may be surprising to some to know that her favorite memory of her time at CSU is actually a defensive play.
"I've mentioned this one before, but I robbed a home run for the first time last season against Radford," Bakenhus commented. "That was a really big moment and the entire team was hyped! Nicole (Ayala) was pitching and she ran out to me."
The fellowship and bonding on and off the field, especially in these big moments, has built up something that goes beyond just a friendship at CSU.
"Getting to meet all of these amazing girls from all over the country – those are friendships I'll have forever," she commented. "A lot of these girls, even the ones I'm not as close with, I feel like I can go to them for anything."
Heading into the conference tournament, Bakenhus is not yet ready for the ride to be over.
"I want to win some games," Bakenhus said. "I'm super excited to be back in the postseason tournament after missing out last year. I'm just going to play like there is nothing else after this – play every pitch, fire my team up along the way, and just win."
Even though she may be wrapping up her collegiate playing career shortly, Bakenhus looks forward to hopefully returning to Charleston Southern next season.
"If everything falls into place, I'll be able to be back here at CSU as a volunteer assistant coach," she said. "I want to leave a legacy at CSU and want people to know who I am and what I have done – both on the field and in the kinesiology department. I want to leave my name and for people to know who I am and what I did."
CSU opens the 2019 Big South Conference Championships on Wednesday, May 8, as the No. 5 seed Bucs take on No. 4 Winthrop at Amanda Littlejohn Field on the campus of Campbell University. First pitch between CSU and the Eagles is set for noon.