By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– As people trickle into the road, rolling up to West Salem Jenny Ball’s house to watch the Titan Senior sign her Letter of Intent in the driveway of her house Wednesday evening to Linfield College.
It was something out of the ordinary, doing the signing at her house instead at West Salem High School. If anything, as the time trickled past 6pm, it was out of the ordinary too as she would have been playing at South Salem at this particular time in the Titans second-league Mountain Valley Conference game.
But something out of the ordinary is something that helped Ball to this point in a sense.
Coming into High School, Ball had played Third Base and was in the outfield. The last time she played some of the position she became known for, was during 10U ball a few years prior.
But Head Coach Ty Nicholson knew they needed someone to fill in at their Shortstop position, so he looked to his Freshman to fill the role in the infield.
“We lost our shortstop that year and she comes in and plays with a lot of confidence and that’s apart of playing shortstop,” said Nicholson. “She wasn’t overwhelmed by it and I knew she played the infield.
“Playing shortstop can be tough…just how you move and everything is a little different. She played a little bit of third. So it was just a learning curve, she kind of got thrown into the fire as a freshman and responded.”
For Ball, she correlated the angles from playing the outfield with the transition to shortstop, plus some in-practice help with routes and closing in on the ball to help with the adjustment of the new position.
“As a freshman I had to make sure I had the confidence and not let the little things get to me, so it made it a lot easier,” said Ball.
West Salem went 17-11 that year and reached at least the first round of the three-years she played as a Titan, reaching the second-round of the 6A State Playoffs her freshman and sophomore years.
Ball became one of the best shortstops in the league to go with a bat that was just as deadly as her glove.
While teams took to account of her bat, walking her when they were able to with Taylor Holmquist and Sage Barnes somewhere in the line-up next to her, Ball took to working on her bat. Hitting lessons to improve on the pitches she struggled with and trying to get inside the pitchers mind to see what might be thrown next.
“It was harder because I had to learn from the pitcher side of it, I feel like. Going to hitting lessons all the time and hitting every day, helped me focus on specific pitches that I wasn’t the best at hitting,” said Ball of her hitting approach. “And for my summer ball team taking away their mentality of when I was up to bat, I kind of know what the pitchers were thinking so I could use it to my advantage.”
And as this Spring day was drawing to an end, this was indeed a weird situation with a lay-off when she normally would be playing. Ball admits everything has a reason.
Signing in front of socially distance practicing friends, family and teammates on a nice evening in West Salem, Ball knows she is walking into a eerie similar situation as the Wildcats are graduating a shortstop. She’ll walk in there with the same mindset as freshman year of High School and getting after it with her work ethic and attitude, taking in as much information as she can in the meantime.
“I think I’ll go in with the same mentality as I did my freshman year of High School. Just making sure I keep working on things because I’ll actually be a freshman again so I’ll need to keep my composure and keep working to make sure I have a good freshman year there,” said Ball. “Since I know their shortstop has graduate, I have a big place to fill. So just making sure I look up to the girls and taking in their advice is what is going to help me the most I feel like.”