April 21, 2009
MABEN — Don’t expect a reaction from Jessica Halterman.
Whether she allows a hit or a walk or if a batter strikes out or reaches on an error, Halterman’s countenance won’t change.
The East Webster High School senior pitcher might look imposing with her hat tucked low and wearing sunglasses and eye black, but her ability not to show emotion in the circle has been a key to her and her team’s success this season.
Halterman helped keep the Lady Wolverines’ season alive Saturday, winning two games at Stringer to help the defending Class 1A fast-pitch state champions rally from a game one loss to take their best-of-three series.
Halterman allowed six hits struck out 22 in 13 innings and had two singles, a double, and a triple in 5-3 and 11-1 victories against Stringer.
“I always expect myself to do the best, and the team expects me to work as hard as they do,” Halterman said. “I try to give 110 percent.”
Last Wednesday, she teamed with freshman Jamison Allred to earn a spot in the state’s individual mixed doubles final.
For her accomplishments, Halterman is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Halterman has helped three-time defending Class 1A champion East Webster (24-7) beat Puckett, West Lincoln, and Stringer to get to the South Half state final against Bogue Chitto. The softball and baseball teams will travel Thursday to Bogue Chitto to play at 5 and 6 p.m. Game two of both series will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at East Webster.
The last two victories give Halterman 97 for her career.
The number of victories show that Halterman has dealt with pressure ever since she was a seventh-grader in East Webster’s first-year fast-pitch softball program. She said she did well under pressure initially and has learned more ways to stay focused and to maintain her composure as she has matured.
“I think it is in my personality,” Halterman said. “I don’t know if anyone has told me to stand there (without a facial expression). I have always handled pressure pretty well. Not even knowing I was under pressure I would handle it well.”
East Webster coach Bill Brand said Halterman faced plenty of pressure in game two Saturday. Halterman pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with one out and the team leading by one run, but he said he always believes she is going to retire the next hitter regardless of the situation.
“She is unflappable when she is in the circle,” Brand said. “Nothing seems to faze her and she goes out and attacks that next batter just like here is nobody on base.
“I have been working with them since she was in the ninth grade and
you always feel like she is going to get that next out. She has matured a lot as far as the mental side of it. She comes back and tells me what will work and what won’t work.”
Brand said Halterman text messaged him after Stringer beat East Webster 2-1 on Thursday. Halterman wrote she recognized Stringer was a dead pull hitting team, so they agreed to work the ball away and force Stringer to adjust.
“They had a tough time making the adjustment,” said Brand, who calls the pitches for Halterman. “She pitched in the seventh and eighth-grade year. She basically worked on throwing strikes. We worked on location and she started locating her pitch (in the eighth grade) and it made her a totally different pitcher.”
Today, East Webster will compete as a team in the semifinals of the Class 1A state team tennis tournament at Natchez Cathedral. The trip will mean another busy day for Halterman, who is used to missing softball and/or tennis practice to attend another activity.
The four-time all-state cheerleader who has been a member of four consecutive state title teams isn’t sure who will be her mixed doubles partner today (Matthew Gordon or Wesley Champion), but she said she maintains the same poise on the tennis court that she shows in the circle.
Halterman said she is considering scholarship offers from Meridian Community College for tennis and Holmes C.C. for softball. She said she is leaning toward going to Meridian C.C. She said she has been told how good she can be as a tennis player if she ever decided to focus on that sport.
It isn’t that she wants to give up playing softball, but she has been playing that sport for so long that she is curious to see how she will do as a full-time tennis player.
“When I first got into high school that is when I started to play tennis,” Halterman said. “I think I can go further in tennis. I think it is time to shift my focus to something different.”
For now, though, Halterman will continue to play both sports. Brand knows any missed time from softball won’t affect Halterman because she will make up for time lost on the diamond herself.
He also hopes Halterman will maintain her steady presence in the circle so she can close her career with another state title.
“She is just a dedicated individual who strives to be the best she can be no matter what she is doing,” Halterman said. “She has something not many have, that desire to be the best at whatever she does.”
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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