After a rough ending to her junior season, Jessica O’Toole is looking for a complete season from start to finish.
No pitcher wants to end their season the way O’Toole did for the Rogers High softball team during last year’s Class 4A West Central District III tournament at Kent Service Club Ballfields.
Rogers came into districts hot, rolling over opponents by a combined 30-14 clip over a three-game span at the South Puget Sound League tournament. All O’Toole had to do for the Rams’ hot offense was keep her team in it, as the bats were capable of putting up a crooked number in a hurry.
But the wheels fell off for O’Toole when Rogers opened up against South Kitsap.
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“It was probably the (South Kitsap) game, ” she admitted.
Nerves created hanging pitches and too many walks to count, and O’Toole and Rogers were blown out by South Kitsap, 20-3, in the opening round.
O’Toole recovered against Kentlake with a 12-7 win, but she couldn’t hold down city rival Puyallup as Rogers was eliminated from the playoffs in a 12-8 loss.
I’ve grown a lot since then … just a lot more practice and more consistency with my pitches.
“(It’s about) getting the right mindset when I get down or behind in the count,” O’Toole said about how she matured since that fateful weekend. “I’ve grown a lot since then … just a lot more practice and more consistency with my pitches.”
But her junior season is done with.
“Just after week of practice, I felt I’ve a lot more comfortable pitching with the girls behind me,” O’Toole said. “Just being able to trust my pitches and trust the movement on my pitches is big.”
O’Toole’s not looking back anymore as the Saint Martin’s University signee is set to lead Rogers softball back into the playoffs, and deeper than they made it a year ago.
And returning with O’Toole is that potent, and downright vicious Rams offense that will provide the support for Rogers’ ace.
“We have a lot of returners (and) ... we don’t have a lot of freshman on the team. But we do have a lot of sophomores,” O’Toole said.
The effect of having so many players returning means Rogers can jump right into the season, with very little needed to reestablish what the Rams want to accomplish.
“So our team chemistry can take us far. We can dictate our own — how far we go,” she added. “We all want to go to state, and that’s all we’re looking forward to.”
With five pitches in her arsenal, O’Toole is ready for the tough 4A South Puget Sound League South Division this year.
Whether she’s throwing her fastball or change-up, or whether she’s hitting that dropball, curveball or screwball low, O’Toole is confident now.
There’s no more second guessing for Rogers’ ace, as she knows what she has to do, and she understands who’s out there with her on the diamond.
“I know I can go at that batter (and) if they do hit a ground ball or hit a pop fly, I have the girls behind me,” O’Toole said with confidence. “Throwing live and seeing the girls behind me work together … I have that trust in my teammates because we’ve been working hard. I trust my teammates.”