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Under the radar

Gladstone senior Jessie Jones has wheels and a big bat, but few have noticed
by: stan grimes, Jessie Jones puts the ball in play during last week's doubleheader with Caldwell, Idaho. The Gladstone senior is off to a tremendous start to her senior year. She sports a .667 batting average and she has yet to be put out on stolen base attempts.

GLADSTONE - Gladstone High School shortstop Jessie Jones has slipped under the radar of college softball coaches and recruiters.

Batting leadoff, the senior team co-captain entered this week with a phenomenal .667 batting average. She had hits in 18-of-27 at bats, had 16 runs scored, and was a perfect 10-for-10 on stolen base attempts.

Yet Jones, who boasts a 4.0 GPA, as of last week had only one scholarship offer.

'Providence College [of Rhode Island], a Division I school in the Big East Conference, has offered me a combination academic/athletic scholarship of $37,000 a year,' said Jones. 'My parents want me to go, because they are offering the money, but I'd like to stay closer to home….

'I'm going to have to make a decision soon.'

Jones says she'd like to stay close to friends and family.

'I've talked with people who have gone to school back East and they say they never get to come home,' said Jones. 'I don't know if I could handle being away so long.'

A four-year starter in softball, Jones has also been a three-year starter in basketball and volleyball. She was a senior leader on Gladstone's girls basketball team that made school history during the past season, advancing to a state final for the first time.

'Jessie leads by example,' said Gladstone coach Katie Grisham. 'She always gives 110 percent, and she'll do whatever you ask to help the team. She's just a really great kid!'

Jones' great start at the plate is somewhat of a surprise, because she got a late start in softball after Gladstone's historic run in basketball.

'She does play on an ASA Gold team, so my expectations were pretty high,' said Grisham. 'Still I was a little worried that the basketball kids would be emotionally and physically drained. That hasn't been the case with Jessie.'

Jones turned out for softball just two days after playing for the Class 4A basketball title, and she was playing in softball games right away.

Grisham says that Jones has perfected her left-handed short game to the point that she can drag-bunt or slap-hit for a base hit on any at bat.

'Jessie has so many weapons to use,' said Grisham. 'She waits to see how the defense sets up and then decides what she's going to do. She's so disciplined at the plate, she doesn't chase a lot of pitches. And it doesn't hurt that she's really, really fast….

'When she gets on base she's got the green light to steal on every pitch. Everyone knows she's going to steal, but they can't do anything about it. They can't get her out.'

Since last fall, Jones has practiced with Northwest Xtreme, an Amateur Softball Association 18-U-Gold team that fields players from as far away as Corvallis and The Dalles. Putnam standouts Lauren Harvey and Ronni Sayres are on the team. After playing outfield and second base with Northwest Xtreme last fall, Jones practiced with the team on Sundays during basketball.

She's played softball for 12 years and was a member of two ASA regional championship teams: 12-U-A [Oregon Slammers] and 14-U-A [Oregon Xtreme]. Her 16-U-A team [Oregon Crush] was a regional runner-up.

Jones is the only senior on her high school team, but her teammates are following her example. The team sports a .447 batting average.

'Those are honest stats,' said Grisham. 'Our assistant coach loves statistics and the hits are hits.'

'We have some really good athletes,' said Jones, 'and we've got good hitting through our whole lineup. When I get on base, I know I can count on other kids to hit me in.'

The Gladiators this spring have out-scored opponents 84-17 en route to a 7-1 record.

Jones says that although she excels the most in softball, she likes whatever sport is in season.

'I like softball, because it's so intense and it has a challenge mentally,' she said. 'I like basketball because of the people I play with. We're all really good friends.'

Asked if she's ever considered competing in track, Jones said, 'I wish I could do track. It would be a lot of fun. But I've just played softball so long, I'd feel like I'd let my team down if I didn't play softball.'

Jones says she believes Gladstone's softball team has a good chance of being competitive in the postseason.

'We don't have very much experience in the playoffs, but maybe that will be to our advantage,' said Jones. 'Maybe it will cut down on the nerves and we'll just go out there and play our game.'

A first-team all-league selection as a sophomore, her freshman year Jones played for a Gladstone team that lost to Cascade in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.

Jones, who has always excelled in the classroom, plans a career as an educator, perhaps as a history teacher.

'I love history,' she said.

But right now her focus is on softball.

'Jessie is one of those players you're lucky to be around,' said Grisham. 'She always gives 100 percent, and she'll always do whatever you ask.

'If you asked her, I think she'd tell you she'd rather play second base. But we need her at shortstop.'

'I do like second base better,' said Jones. 'But I'll play wherever it's best for the team.'