Big 12 Campus Correspondent
There has been a certain buzz around Marita Hynes Field this season, and it has little to do with the Sooners softball team holding a 29-8 record with a No. 13 ranking in the nation.
True freshman Jessica Shults has been the source of much excitement for the Sooner softball team this season.
"Success is a piece of mind, which is a direct result in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming" said John Wooden, former UCLA men’s basketball head coach and Hall of Famer.
Shults has taken the words of her favorite quote to heart and has based her play accordingly. The results of Shults success at Oklahoma have certainly been the biggest surprise of the 2010 season.
The Valencia, Calif.-native came in as a highly-touted recruit, turning down offers to play at Washington and Arizona, only to lead the Big 12 in home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage in conference games.
“It feels good being able to come into a prestigious school and amazing softball program and start as a true freshman,” Shults said. “Even with the success I have had, I try not to think about that stuff.”
Shults chose to be a Sooner because she connected with the coaching staff, the team and the rich sports traditions of OU.
One of the biggest adjustments coming out of high school and into college is adjusting to the speed of the game, but for Shults that seemed to be no problem.
“The biggest adjustment I had to make was every coach is scouting, watching and knows what you chase and what you cannot hit,” Shults explained. “I really had to work on being patient at the plate and making my least favorite pitches my favorite pitches.”
In her Sooner debut against Florida Atlantic, she faced a 3-1 count with the bases loaded. The freshman blasted the next pitch into the stands for a grand slam.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play and get a couple runs in. Needless to say, the ball left the park,” Shults said. “It felt really good being able to swing the bat like that and see the results.
Perhaps her best quality has been her humbleness. Throughout her recent and quick success on the field, Shults has portrayed the maturity of a senior and her teammates have taken notice.
“Schults is one of the most talented softball players that I have had the opportunity to play with,” senior second baseman Amber Flores said. “She is going to do big things here at the University of Oklahoma. I am so excited for her future here at OU. The sky is the limit for her.”
Coming to Oklahoma from California can be rough on a young freshman player. Shults has relied on her teammates and family’s support to help her through.
“My family is a huge part of my life,” Shults said. “They are my biggest support group and have always wanted the best for me. It was hard not seeing them at every game when the season started but I know they are always watching any way they can.”
Shults recently earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors (March 30), after hitting .455 (5-for-11) with four runs scored and three home runs against Missouri. She had 14 total bases and drove in nine runs, while producing a 1.273 slugging percentage and .600 on-base percentage.
With a quick start to a long and illustrious career at the University of Oklahoma, Shults is taking the “one game at a time, one bat at a time” approach to this season and the rest of her career.