Prior to every softball game, Reed High’s Julia Jensen writes out a game plan to help in her preparation.
It might as well say: “Pitch well. Hit well. Win.”
That’s pretty much all the sophomore did all season.
Jensen went 34-2 with 346 strikeouts in the circle and batted .477 with seven home runs to lead the Raiders to their first state championship since 1998. She is the Review-Journal’s state player of the year.
“Julia is the full package with her hitting and pitching,” Reed coach Jon Wunder said. “Her mental preparation, in addition to her physical preparation, is head and shoulders above others. She’s so mature, so smart.”
Jensen keeps the game plan with her in her back pocket as she pitches. It serves as a reminder, though she does not need much help.
“I start off with physical reminders, mechanical stuff,” she said. “Then, I think the most important part of it is I just have a message that I want for every game. I just want to keep that message in my mind to stay strong mentally.”
In the Raiders’ eight-inning 3-2 victory over Palo Verde in the Division I state championship game May 16, Jensen said the message was: “Dig deep.”
She did, gaining her second straight extra-inning win to clinch the title.
Jensen was 3-0 during the state tournament, allowing only three earned runs on 11 hits and nine walks while striking out 37 in 24 innings.
She finished the season with a 0.80 ERA, including 10 shutouts. She allowed 111 hits in 211 innings, holding opponents to a .143 batting average.
As part of a three-pitcher rotation with two seniors last year, Jensen didn’t get as many chances to shine. She pitched only 66 innings and had a 2.44 ERA. Illnesses limited her playing time during the region and state tournaments.
“We knew what she was capable of, but we went with that rotation,” Wunder said. “She knew this was going to be her team this year and going forward. She works hard.”
Wunder expected Jensen to throw about 70 percent of his team’s innings this season, with the rest going to freshman Aliya Lange. Lange ended up throwing only 25 innings and was 3-0 with 42 strikeouts.
“(Lange) is solid and we wanted to get her some innings,” Wunder said. “When you are a competitor, you want to win every game. It just so happened that the ball kept falling in Julia’s hand. We were thinking 70-30 and it turned out to be more like 90-10.”
Perhaps Jensen’s biggest area of improvement came at the plate, where she became a weapon for the Raiders (37-2).
Jensen’s .477 average was third on the team. She was second in home runs and led the team in doubles (13) and RBIs (43). During the state tournament, Jensen went 7-for-11 with two home runs, a double and six RBIs.
Last season, Jensen hit just .273 with one double and five RBIs.
“She worked on her hitting, and her bat has been a huge, huge part of our success,” Wunder said. “She is so intelligent. She makes really good adjustments. Her bat speed is second to none. She’ll let the ball get deep, and then she will just drive it.”
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5230.