11/12/04 — Jackson signs with Western

View Archive

Jackson signs with Western

By David Williams
Published in Sports on November 12, 2004 1:57 PM

PIKEVILLE -- A lot people anxiously await the graduation of Jenny Jackson from Charles B. Aycock High School this spring. Most of them are softball coaches from schools that play the Golden Falcons.

It's not hard to see why those coaches look forward to the day they do not have to take their teams out to face the senior pitcher -- the numbers tell the tale.

A phenomenal 460 strikeouts. Seven no-hitters. Three perfect games. Thirty shutouts. A 43-6 overall record. A career ERA of 0.30.

As you read those figures, consider that Jackson did not start pitching until the end of her freshman year -- and has a senior year still to go.

It stood to reason that Jackson, the daughter of Wayne and Patricia Jackson of Fremont, would get an opportunity to play in college. Jackson made that official Thursday when she announced she would attend Western Carolina University and play for the first-year Catamount program.

Jackson said she also considered attending UNC Pembroke, but wanted to play in Division I instead of Division II. And when she saw the Cullowhee campus on a visit, she was hooked.

"When I went to visit, I just fell in love with it," she said. "That's a really pretty school, and it's a first-year program. They're building a whole new stadium, and it's going to be the best stadium in the conference."

Jackson is the first Aycock player in coach David West's tenure who has signed with a Division I school. Jackson will get to start right away, an opportunity she relishes.

"Hopefully, I can maintain the same level of performance," she said. "When I go, I'll work hard and practice hard every day. I'll be ready for it."

Jackson has not decided on a major yet, saying she had no firm plans.

"Maybe something like psychology or speech therapy," she said. "I'll pitch, I probably won't play the field."

Jackson was not even sure she would pitch when she started playing at Aycock. She was the third baseman her freshmen year while outstanding pitcher Lauren Howell was on the mound. Jackson came on to pitch in the playoffs that year. When Howell did not come out for softball the next year, Jackson took the mound and has been the queen of the diamond in Pikeville ever since.

Jackson said she took a lot of experience from her time playing travel ball to the mound. She played up one age group her last few years to prepare herself for varsity-level play and to push her own performance.

As a hitter, Jackson bats .387 -- and batted .481 last season. She is a three-time all-Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference selection, and two-time ECC player of the year. She has twice been selected to all-state teams and was a three-time selection on the News-Argus all-area softball team. She was the 2003 News-Argus Pitcher of the Year.

But West said Jackson's qualities beyond the numbers amplify her value to the team.

"There's some mighty good pitchers around," he said. "Crystal Cox has a lot of records. Had Jenny pitched her entire freshman year, her numbers would have been higher. But they're just numbers. Jenny is the kind of person you want on the mound at crunch time. She's the go-to person that we look to all the time.

"The numbers are great, but the way she plays is greater still."

Jackson goes into her senior year with a few things to prove.

"We've gotta win the state," she said. "We have a really good chance as long as we hit good. The last game of last year we lost 1-0 in 11 innings -- all the games in the playoffs we've lost out to, we've lost to Harnett Central and Lauren Caviness."

Caviness has graduated, and Jackson wants Aycock to finally claim that elusive state title.

Jackson has five pitches in her arsenal -- the fastball, change-up, drop, curve and screwball -- and she is working on a rise ball. She likes the curve the best, but has had her fastball clocked at 63 miles an hour.

"We've had some officials that I think called it by sound," said West.

Jackson listed her parents, travel ball coach Nick Burroughs and West as her influences.

"It's nice to know she's going to Division I, but nicer to know she is not leaving until next year," said West. "I'm glad for Jenny to have that decision out of the way for her. That's a huge decision to make at any age. She's very well deserving of it."