This past Saturday, the Women’s Softball team traveled to Ripon for another doubleheader, and the results were unlike anything anyone could have predicted, back-to-back shutouts, one from each team! In the first game, Ripon got on a hot streak in one inning, which resulted in a slaughter rule (Slaughter/mercy rule: The game ends early if one competitor has a very large scoring lead over the other and spares further humiliation for the loser), Vikings losing 0-10. However, after a short rain delay between games, the Vikings answered back and got a shutout of their own, slaughter-ruling Ripon 13-0! Two players stood out in that second game, Mikayla Jeneske, who got a home run, and Emilia Jackson, the pitcher.
Here is what I asked Mikayla: During the second game of the doubleheader against Ripon, you hit your first home run of the season! What do you think you did differently that time up to bat? (Stance, swing, confidence, pitch, eye tracking, etc.) You also hit three for four that game, what do you think made you so successful? (Figured out the pitchers early?) She said: “In that at-bat, I hit my first college home run, I just relaxed and hit the ball like I’ve been doing for 10 years. I “let the bat do its job,” and essentially just made good contact. Honestly, what helped me the most in that game was just trying to stay calm and focused at the plate. I tend to overswing due to my excitement when I step into the box, which I haven’t been able to do because of my back pain. Staying relaxed and clearing my head before and during my at-bat is what allows me to do better offensively.” I asked her: Like some other people on the team, it’s no secret that you’ve been physically hurting the past couple of games: How do you push through it? What do you tell yourself to motivate you to keep going even though you’re pushing the limits of your body? Jeneske said: “I think what lets me push through the most is my teammates. I see just how much everyone puts into the team, and I want to continue with that positive attitude. It really comes down to the mentality that you have as a player. Instead of focusing on my pain during games or practices, I try to focus on the game that I grew to absolutely love. My teammates’ constant words of affirmation lift my spirits and help get me through any physical pain that I feel.”
I interviewed Emilia: This was one of your biggest accomplishments of the season and possibly of your career when in the second game against Ripon, you only allowed 1 person to get a single in the 3rd inning. This hasn’t been done in Lawrence’s history since March 26, 2013. What do you think made you so successful in that game compared to the first, considering how it was the same team, and the games yielded polar opposite results? She said: “My 1-hit shutout against Ripon was definitely an exciting accomplishment that I could not have done without my team’s excellent defense in this game. Several factors went into the success of this game. For example, in the first two innings that I threw in the first game, Ceara (the catcher), and I learned a lot about the batters and prepared a different pitch calling pattern for the second game that allowed for fewer hits as well as weaker hits that our defense skillfully played for outs. A second factor that led to a victory in the second game was overall team energy. We came out right away in the second game with high energy that led to several runs scored. It is always beneficial as a pitcher to feel the high energy of your team and to know your team has run insurance. In conjunction, I believe these factors helped produce such a successful 1-hit shutout game.” I asked her: As a pitcher in general, do you ever get nervous or distracted by the opposing team when they do their chants? If so, how do you calm your nerves? If not, how do you block them out, or what do you tell yourself? Emilia said: “I have been a pitcher since I was 9 years old and over the years, I have learned to calm my nerves and shut out the opposing team’s chants by staying focused on my catcher and by utilizing deep breathing exercises in between pitches on the mound. In my college career, I have been able to tune out the opposing team, only focusing on my pitches, taking each batter, one pitch at a time using these strategies and it has led to overall success on the mound. I rarely get nervous on the mound now and I remain level-headed and focus on pitch placement.”
What another shocking turn of events for the Vikings, coming back with their own victory shutout in the second game, and with injuries and only 12 players who can play, this team keeps pushing past the boundaries of “possible.”