Apr 262005
 
Authors: Laura Epple

Softball Lingo:

Retire the side: Get three outs to end a half of an inning.

Batting Average: ratio of hits to at-bats

Slugging Average: ratio of the number of bases reached to at-bats

RBI: runs batted in

Double: reaching second base off of a hit

ERA: earned run average; a measure of a pitcher's performance obtained by dividing the total earned runs allowed by the total innings pitched and multiplying by nine.

Dinger: home run

KO: strike out

Vital Stats:

Full Name: Jessica Lynn Strickland

Year in School: Sophomore

Sport: Softball

Position: Pitcher

Crazy Statistic: Racked up seven letters in high school sports

Tie ballgame. Two strikes. Bottom of the ninth, runners on first and third. There are few instances in which a solitary player could either go to the plate to hammer home the winning run or head to the mound to throw down a blazing strike to retire the side.

However, sophomore pitcher Jessica Strickland presents a rare combination of

pitching prowess and power at the plate. So far this season, she leads the Rams with a .391 batting average and .645 slugging average. She also tops the team in RBIs with 34 and is tied for home runs with seven. Strickland also just tied the CSU single-season record for doubles, with 19, and leads the nation with 0.45 per game.

On the pitcher's mound, Strickland has also accumulated the most innings pitched so far this season and has the lowest ERA on the team. She has her fair share of strikeouts on the year as well, sending 76 down swinging.

As a freshman last season, Strickland led the Rams in appearances on the pitcher's mound with 28 starts. She also posted the team's third-highest batting average and third most dingers with seven. Her slugging percentage ranked second on the team and her seven saves set a CSU season record.

These formidable stats were good enough to earn Strickland the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Award, a spot on the first-team MWC team and National Fastpitch Coaches Association All Region second-team status.

These achievements were prefaced by an amazing high school athletic career in which Strickland also lettered three times in basketball and earned such softball honors as All State first team for three years, pitcher of the year, Colorado Sportswoman of the Year and the distinction of KO'ing 900 batters in her four years of play.

The list goes on and on for this self-admitted flexed muscle.

"I'm a pretty stiff person in general," Strickland said, "Hitting, pitching, running – everything."

Strickland also describes herself as intense, comical and able to come through in clutch situations.

This may be due to her superstitious sliding shorts that she will wear until they break, or her set of lucky sports bras that she wears for games – freshly washed, of course.

When she isn't smashing hits or aggravating batters on the field, Strickland said that she loves to relax her stiff competitive side and lay around in bed, watching "Friends" and "Will and Grace" re-runs and "Doug," her favorite cartoon character. She also likes the movie "Love and Basketball" and likes listening to rap and country music. Her favorite song is "To Be Loved By You," by Marvin Gaye, however.

This not-so-stiff attitude is also infused in her fashion style – she doesn't want any tattoos or eccentrically placed piercings and she said that she wears sweats to class every day.

Strickland has also stepped up to the plate academically at CSU, majoring in human development and family studies. So far, her Creative Experience class has been her favorite because it is directly related to her future aspirations. She plans to eventually become an elementary school teacher and wants to specifically teach first grade.

"She is also going to coach," said CSU assistant coach Tonya Hadley.

Another aspiration of Strickland's is to vacation in Australia someday.

"It is just so different over there," Strickland said. "I'd like to see all the animals, see what the outback looks like, and the Aussies. I just think that would be really fun."

One of Strickland's ultimate goals right now, however, is to compete in the Olympics. With her talent dedication this is distinct possibility, said head coach Mary Yori.

"Strickland is a fierce competitor who comes through in clutch situations in both pitching and hitting," Yori said.

Yori also said Strickland is fun to be around and has a unique talent for good-naturedly getting teased by teammates about her competitive nature.

For instance, on a road trip last year, Strickland was losing badly at a card game against one of the team's trainers who had given up eating sweets for Lent. After suffering defeat, Strickland grabbed a bowl of ice cream and vengefully, but playfully, ate it in front of her opposition.

"It's hard to define Jess's personality," Yori said. "She's just a well-rounded kid that does a lot of fun stuff and is easy to be around."

While Strickland is nowhere near the seventh-inning stretch of her career as a CSU softball player, she has already shown that her multi-faceted character will keep her from striking out on and off the field.

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