Sometimes, the perfect fit finds you.
In Serena Huchingson’s case, it happened when she arrived at Boise State from Newbury Park, California, with an impressive record behind her. As a senior at Newbury Park High, she helped lead the Panthers to the first California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 2 championship in school history.
Even though she had only dabbled in the position, Boise State coaches decided she would make a good catcher on the university’s softball team.
It now makes all the sense in the world that the Bronco senior is at home behind home plate – she has the smarts, the confidence and the leadership traits to help pitchers and direct a defense.
“There’s a lot of responsibilities at that position, and we are really fortunate to have Serena,” Boise State head coach Justin Shults said. “She’s kind of an extra coach out there for us.”
During her junior season in 2022, Huchingson helped lead one of the nation’s best defensive teams, as the Broncos finished No. 3 in the NCAA in fielding percentage, getting outs 98.3% of the time a ball was hit into play. She also threw out 11 attempted base stealers.
“I like catching because you’re in every play, you’re the captain on the field,” Huchingson said. “I love the adrenaline and the pressure, the connection with the pitchers.”
A player takes pride in giving back
For Shults, it’s not just the command of the game that has teammates looking up to Huchingson, but also what she does away from the diamond.
A four-time Academic All-Mountain West selection who carried a 3.82 GPA into the 2022-23 school year, Huchingson has staffed soccer and volleyball games and volunteers at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise. She is majoring in health studies and hopes to be a nurse.
“This is a time in my life I can grow as a person and not just be a good softball player, but also a good person and give back to the community, so I take pride in that,” Hutchingson said.
Senior infielder Autumn Bennett, a Yucaipa, California, native, is Huchingson’s roommate.
“I think she had the most volunteer hours of anyone on our team last year. You add that in with softball commitments, class, being on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, it’s crazy,” Bennett said. “She’s so caring … and I think that plays into a big part of her success on the field.”
Huchingson played a major role behind the plate and with her bat during the 2023 season, as Boise State claimed its first regular season Mountain West championship since 2018, going 31-15 overall.
Huchingson missed the 2021 softball season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in her right elbow, leading to a year-long rehab. Her timing suffered as a result – she hit .283 (getting hits in 28.3% of her at-bats), with a .372 on-base percentage (getting on base via hits, walks or being hit by a pitch).
“Usually, the less you think as a hitter, the better,” Shults said. “Serena is so smart, she really developed the mental side during the year away … but you gotta turn off that cerebral side when you hit.”
The 2023 regular season proved Huchingson did just that, hitting .314 with nine home runs and posting a .503 on-base percentage, second-best on the team.
More than five years after she signed to play at Boise State, Huchingson has grown into her place in the community and on the team. Not bad after starting in a position she barely knew.
“I took it as a challenge,” Huchingson said. “I like being the director, doing my best to get the best out of everyone. Being a catcher, it’s exactly what I like to do.”
By Dave Southorn
Photos by Tyler McFarland
Video by Kiersten Hart