People often talk of the strength of human connection. For the North Lamar Pantherettes softball team, the bonds created were everything, and that is exactly the fuel this year’s All-RRV Pitcher of the Year Jaycie Hall needed to thrive in the circle.
“The bond we had with each other really motivated me to do my best and make it a season to remember,” Jaycie said. “We knew this was the last time we all had to play together, so that really fueled me this year.”
As a freshman last year, Jaycie’s services in the circle weren’t as demanding as they were in her sophomore campaign as the team relied heavily on senior ace Reagan Richardson. This year, Jaycie threw 100.2 innings with 152 strikeouts and a 1.46 ERA. Jaycie proved she was ready for her new role and excelled at it.
“I knew I had to step up and take it head on,” Jaycie said. “It was a huge role, but working every day, putting in 110 percent at practice and working hard after practice really paid off. I had my opportunity, I executed it and I got to keep pitching more. The defense had my back and things went really well.”
“Her freshman year, she didn’t pitch as much but was ready to go every day,” North Lamar head softball coach Ashley Endsley said. “This year, she showed how dominant she can be every day. Her character has never been in question, and she is someone who is a leader on and off the field. With all three of our RRV superlative leaders, they’re going to be great leaders for us, and we are ready for January to come back around.”
On top of that, she was always willing to go the extra mile to get the results she knew her team needed from her.
“She is one that if it’s not working, she’s going to keep throwing the pitch in the bullpen until it is where it needs to be,” Endsley said. “She’s going to stay with that pitch until it hits the right location and speed. She wants to be perfect out there, and it shows with her production she had on the mound.”
To Endsley’s point, Jaycie’s work ethic is a huge asset in her game, and that along with mental toughness are two things that help her thrive on the mound.
“In practice it’s important to give 110 percent,” Jaycie said. “Every day it’s a different practice and a different ball game, so it’s important to continue working as hard as you can. In the games, it may look easy, but so much is going through our heads as pitchers. Each pitch is one pitch at a time and each batter is different. It’s definitely hard, but you can’t show it. You have always stay calm under pressure.”
Things weren’t always easy for Jaycie in her sophomore season. In the beginning of her team’s playoff push, Jaycie broke her hand and was forced to the dugout for essentially the rest of the season. Although trying, the experience was also defining for Jaycie.
“I never had an injury like this before, and it was very difficult,” Jaycie said. “I had to play a different role and contribute in different ways for my team. It went from pitching all the time to cheering for my teammates in the dugout and gathering up equipment. I got the chance to look at things from a different perspective. It was very tough, but at the end of the day, I’m thankful I went through it. God works in mysterious ways, and He gave me this opportunity to see things from a different point of view. It was hard to not be able to throw and not get that high from being on the field. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get that high. It was hard, but I had to stay positive and know that everything would get better. I knew my team was always there for me, and that I could get through anything.”
Whether she was on the field pitching or cheering her teammates on in the dugout, Jaycie knows the importance of being a good teammate, and giving credit where it’s due.
“Most of the time, everyone puts so much attention on different positions even though it is a team sport,” Jaycie said. “If it wasn’t for my defense, though, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I think a big part of what makes a pitcher great is their defense. It’s important to give the defense credit and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you. You also have to be confident in what you’re doing, trusting the process and staying positive.”
Jaycie clearly took the next step with her high level of play, but not to be ignored is her high level of character. Becoming the best version of herself in all areas, especially as a person, is what Jacyie believes was her biggest area of growth.
“I think I improved with being a better teammate and learning my role,” Jaycie said. “Being able to have the role as a starting pitcher, I feel like I became more of an open and caring teammate, which I think also came from my injury. I just tried to help each teammate in any way I could.”
Jaycie looks to continue to make strides as a teammate, but also perfect her all around game. She believes the key to making it all possible, and rightfully so, is with the right attitude.
“I think I can work on perfecting my hitting and being as efficient as possible on the mound,” Jaycie said. “This year, I wanted to make the innings go by faster, throw less pitches and get ahead in the count. I feel like I achieved that, but next year I want to work on staying out of my head through stressful situations. I just need to keep reminding myself that my defense has my back and to remain positive. Positivity is huge in the mental side of playing softball.”