Jenkins jumpstarts Highs

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T.J. Amato

The key to winning softball games is good pitching and the Radford University Highlanders have one of the best rotations this season.

Sophomore Jackie Jenkins leads the team in earned run average, wins, complete games and shutouts. Joining the team last season, Jenkins struck out the first batter she faced in her March 31 debut with the Highs. Her freshman season was impressive as she put together a 2.03 earned run average and a 2-1 win-loss record with four strikeouts.

“I think I was just more nervous last year because I was a freshman,” Jenkins said. “This year I came back knowing what I was going to do and I felt more confident about it.”

This year the Highs have counted on Jenkins as she’s put together a sterling record of 9-1 and 1.00 ERA. The team currently sits at 21-12 and is hoping to advance beyond the NCAA Regional tournament where they finished their season last year.

“That’s our overall team goal,” Jenkins said. together and trusting each other to get there.”

The team has excelled this season with the help of Jenkins as she’s thrown three complete game shutouts. Her latest complete game came on Saturday, April 2 as she blanked Gardner-Webb University through seven innings on just five hits with three strikeouts.

In just one season, Jenkins has gone from an infrequently used relief pitcher to a key piece in the championship-caliber team that Head Coach Mickey Dean has assembled.

“Coach Dean is great,” Jenkins said. “He actually knows a lot about the game. He’s taught me more about pitching and just life in general than I could ever imagine.”

The Highs will count on Jenkins in the seasons to come when as the team loses six seniors including starting pitcher Chelsea Kelley and recently drafted shortstop Kristen Shifflett.

“Those are some pretty big shoes to fill,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a huge change. I’ve got to grow up and fill Chelsea’s spot.”

Jenkins maintains that her confidence is something new for this season. The idea that her talent and ability can beat any team that she faces on a certain day is the resounding theme throughout the Highs dugout.

“I don’t know what the secret is,” Jenkins said. “It’s a lot different than last year. I think this year I came out a lot more confident and believed in myself more and I’ve been performing that way.”

The Highs and Jenkins will continue to work hard as they get into the most difficult part of their schedule, with Big South Conference matchups starting and trips to Blacksburg and Knoxville lined up to take on Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee in April.