Coffel stayed loyal to UK and had a historic career

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Kentucky baseball’s historic season completely overshadowed the historic career of UK three-time All-American shortstop Erin Coffel that ended last month.

Coffel is the UK record holder in home runs (68), walks (155) and runs batted-in (212). In 224 career games, she hit .377 with 230 hits, scored 189 runs, got hit by 38 pitches, stole 19 bases and struck out only 77 times. In her final season she hit .317 with 25 extra-base hits. She was also named to the prestigious All-SEC defensive team with league coaches voting her the best shortstop in the conference.

“She remained loyal to UK and the program to the end. She loved Kentucky,” Rob Coffel, Erin’s father, said. “She could have gone elsewhere and got NIL money compared to where she got virtually nothing at UK. But she chose to remain loyal to UK. It was a sacrifice financially on her part but says a lot about her.”

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Coffel’s father never envisioned his daughter as a rare three-time All-American — something that had not happened at UK before — as she was growing up in Indiana.

“It is beyond my wildest dreams to be honest. Our focus was always on what was next and to be better tomorrow,” he said. “All-American was always kind of reserved for those elite players. We never thought of her that way coming from our small community. She was always the best player on the team if it was Little League or the all-star team where she was the only 10 year old who could catch our 12 year old pitcher.

“We got her on a travel team outside the community and she was the best girl on that team and it just kept going that way. She transitioned to more of a national program. We anticipated her just being a part of that team and she became the best player on that team. We still never really thought of her as elite, so for all this to happen at Kentucky was a true blessing and credit to her will, humble attitude and work ethic.”

Coffel is so humble that she had doubts coming out of Bremen (Ind.) High School if she could really play in the SEC. She became a four-year starter.

“That’s the way she is. The less said the better. She is not shy but she was never one to really like talking about herself,” her father said. “Growing up, I was kind of a cocky guy so for her to be that way was a little bit of a shock. But she was just never comfortable talking about herself and that probably will never change.”

The UK standout was the same way when she broke the career home run and RBI records held by Abbey Cheek. Rob Cheek admitted the family knew she might break both marks but really did not appreciate “how big a deal it was” until it happened.

“We saw she was third all-time in SEC home runs in her career. There are some girls on that list we looked up to as absolute legends as she was growing up and now her name is up there with them,” Rob Coffel said. “I thought she probably would be both records at some point but when it happened it really hit us all how big it was.”

Coffel and UK had some struggles during the 2024 season and her father said they all felt all-SEC and all-American honors probably were not going to happen for her this season but a strong finish changed that.

“We had just pretty much written all that off,” he said. “In previous years you could look at her SEC stats and think maybe she could have been SEC Player of the Year but this season I did not really look at her SEC stats or NCAA stats like I have in the past.”

She was selected in the Athletes Unlimited draft and has started her professional career before she starts graduate school at the University of Florida and concentrates on sports management. She plans to be a graduate assistant coach for the Florida softball team the next two seasons.

The league pays lodging and other expenses along with providing a salary that players can increase with their performance on the field that earns bonus money. She also has a deal with Franklin Sports to promote its batting gloves that supplements her income.

“She’s starting a new phase of her life but she loved her time at Kentucky,” Rob Coffel said.