Jesup softball celebrates strong seasonBy Micah Knebel
At the beginning of the season, Jesup softball was the 12th ranked team in 2A. By the end of the regular season, the team had worked their way up to third. The J-Hawks ended their season in a third round regional fall against fifth ranked East Marshall.
“We fell short of winning the conference and going to state,” head coach Rod Elson reflected, “but those accomplishments will be on our goals list again for next year.” He pointed to a number of things this top team was able to accomplish: an opening season victory streak, an overall 30-game winning record, and a team that stayed competitive through almost all of its games. The team also set school records for team batting average and slugging average, a sign, he says, of a strong hitting team.
“Establishing a winning culture is always being developed,” Coach Elson said, “and progress has been made.”
For Elson, who has coached for 16 years, many of his most memorable moments come from seeing his players achieve first time feats or reach personal goals. These come from seeing his players make their first varsity hit or pitching win to record-setting moments like Alexus Jensen setting a new school record with 24 career home runs.
Another special moment of the season was a victory against Sumner-Fredricksburg where Alexis Harris landed a big play with a diving catch and Rhianna Bigwood pitched a perfect game. The J-Hawk victory earned Coach Elson his 500th career win.
The team loses seniors Rhianna Bigwood, Alexus Jensen, and Breanne Fischels who have each been with the team since eighth grade.
Pitcher and right-fielder Rhianna Bigwood ended her career named to the 2A All-Conference First Team three times, the All-Conference Second Team once, Honorable Mention All-State, and is a four-year letter winner. This year, she was also named to the 2A All-District Team. Bigwood finished her career with a batting average of .386 and a career pitching record of 71-34.
Alexus Jensen played in the shortstop position all five years and earned herself a letter each of those years. Her accolades include five years on the All-Conference team, one year All-Conference Honorable Mention, one year All-Conference Second Team, and three years All-Conference First Team. She also was an All-District and All-State selection her freshman and sophomore years. Jensen ended her career with a batting average of .378 and is now a school record holder for home runs.
Second baseman Breanne Fischels was a starting athlete all five years. She was named to the All-Conference Second Team once and All-Conference First Team once. Her career batting average was .310.
In addition to their on-the-field recognition, Elson noted that all three of the athletes were exceptional students in the classroom, earning All-Academic Team awards throughout high school.
Other post-season honors went to juniors Zoe Miller, Kristin Sadler, and Jenna Jensen who earned a spot on the First Team All-Conference. Freshman Alexis Larson received Honorable Mention for the Second Team All-Conference. Miller and Sadler were also named to the 2A All-District Team.
As Coach Elson looked back on more than 500 coaching wins, he recognized the work of so many softball athletes that have brought him to this point and the effort of those who have helped support the Jesup program. “Many thanks to all who help with the softball program,” he said, “and especially the coaching staff Gina Feldt, Sarah Harold, and Stacy Conrad.”
Coach Elson said many of his players are already working on bettering their game for the next season. Spectators and competitors should be prepared.