By PATRICK SLACK
That’s a good thing, because just about every time she swings the bat, she hits the ball. Hard.
The Little Falls senior, and repeat Record Player of the Year, put the ball in play in all but seven of her 63 plate appearances, drawing only six walks and striking out just once.
“My approach when I stepped into the batters box was to hit the first good pitch I saw,” Jenks said. “My favorite pitch to hit is in fact the first pitch if it is a good one, and after that, I try to be patient and wait for my pitch.”
“I do not enjoy walks at all so I try to foul balls off until a pitcher has no choice but to try and throw a decent pitch, but I will take a walk if it comes to that,” she said.
Waiting to take the field
A strong desire to get in the batter’s box and swing away made this spring all the more challenging, as the first month of the schedule was postponed due to snow.
Add that with a young roster trying to replace the bulk of last year’s conference champion and section runner-up team and the time off was less than ideal.
However, Jenks and the Flyers found a silver lining.
“It was very frustrating missing out on those first few games of the season and not getting a chance to get on the field,” Jenks said. “But I found a bright side to it because I grew closer to new friends and made the best of it with the whole 9 – 12 group inside and I liked how the coaches mixed us all together.”
“I did feel more pressure to be more vocal as a senior with not only the younger girls but with everyone and make sure that we all kept our heads and attitudes right even when we got frustrated with being inside,” she said. “I also tried my best to keep things fun and exciting which didn’t always mean being super serious at all times, but knowing where a happy medium was.”
That wasn’t lost on her co-head coaches Debra Yliniemi-Ahlin and Sally Heier, who, like most of the players, were each in their first year at the helm of the varsity team.
“Overall, Jamie is a leader by example,” Heier said. “The girls respect her greatly. Having more of a rookie squad this season, we were fortunate to have Jamie because of her confidence that comes along with experience.”
“Having coached Jamie for four years in all of her three high school competitive arenas, I knew we had something special from the start,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said. “She is the type of young lady that makes it easier to build teamwork around.”
When the season did finally roll around, Little Falls got off to a rocky start, dropping five of its first seven contests.
However, a pair of one-run wins over eventual sub-section champion Milaca turned the tide, with the Flyers going 5-4 to close the regular season.
Once in the playoffs, Little Falls drew repeat state entrant Albany in the first round, answering scores by the Huskies three times as they forced extra innings, before Albany finally prevailed 11-6.
“The Albany playoff game we played is one that I will remember because we battled the whole way,” Jenks said. “It was just the team that wanted it more that came out ahead that day I believe, but all of the girls did try their best.”
In addition to proving herself as one of the state’s top sluggers, collecting 10 extra-base hits during the year, Jenks provided defensive excellence rarely exhibited in high school outfields, saving several runs for her team’s pitchers.
“You do not get the chance to see many center fielders throw out a runner at first base and Jamie can do this routinely when given the chance,” Heier said.
“Jamie can cover a ton of ground for the Flyers because of her quickness, but it is her knowledge of the game that gets her in the best position to make the plays,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said.
Star among stars
Jenks was selected to an elite group following the season, chosen as an all-state recipient in Class AA and taking part in the state’s all-star series.
In the all-star game, Jenks went 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI against the best pitchers the state had to offer, while playing flawless defense as well.
“Jamie is one of the best athletes I have coaches in 17 years,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said. “She is for sure a complete package – speed, strength – but again her knowledge of the game puts her on top of the area players.”
Looking ahead, Jenks will be joining the Air Force, but said, “If there are chances to play ball on a base, you can bet that I will be out there playing.”
“We are both very proud of Jamie and her accomplishments in softball, but also we celebrate her as a genuine competitor who plays her heart out for her teammates and Flyer athletic pride,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said. “She demonstrates leadership to her teammates by setting goals and following through to reach them in many areas of her life.”