Pitcher tries to find magic touch at Truman
Former Tonganoxie High softball pitcher Katie Jeannin wasn't planning to give Truman State a chance. She simply wanted to shut the Bulldog hitters down.
Last fall, Jeannin, who graduated from THS in 2004, pitched for Johnson County Community College in a tournament against Truman State. She pitched so well in a 1-0 losing effort that Jeannin had the opposing coaches scribbling all over their notebooks.
"Their coaches contacted me later on," Jeannin said of Truman State. "They said they never saw a pitcher from a junior college shut them down like that. I knew I wanted to play after Johnson County."
So after completing two years at Johnson County, Jeannin became a part of the Truman State softball team in 2007. She chose Truman State, which is in Kirksville, Mo., over Park University, UMKC and Rockhurst, all of which are in the Kansas City metro area.
The adjustment from community college to the NCAA Division II level proved to be a difficult transition for Jeannin in her first year. She finished last season 3-8 with a 4.06 ERA.
Those aren't typical Jeannin numbers. In community college, she had a career ERA of 0.54. As a freshman, Jeannin posted a league-leading 0.33 ERA with 136 strikeouts and had a 19-4 record. She walked three batters that entire season.
Injuries caused major setbacks to Jeannin's junior campaign at Truman State. A recent MRI revealed Jeannin suffered a stress fracture in her left pitching arm.
She actually played through the pain last season, with other Truman State pitchers being hurt as well. The Bulldogs finished the season 17-29 and were eliminated by Washburn in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Softball Tournament.
"My arm swelled up a lot this year," Jeannin said. "In games, I had the most problems with it. It was frustrating because it hurt to throw all my pitches. They didn't want to move like they used to."
Jeannin hasn't thrown a softball since May. She's back in Tonganoxie for the summer working sports camps at JCCC. On the medical front, Jeannin won't have a procedure done for the stress fracture.
"My doctor said with a stress fracture, all you can do is rest it," Jeannin said. "I'll throw again in the next few weeks."
Jeannin's gradual recovery is so she can be as close to full strength as possible by the time the season starts next spring. She'll take part in fall ball in a few weeks, where she'll play in a few tournaments, practice, lift weights and condition.
Truman State coach Erin Brown said it was too early to determine whether Jeannin would start or be used out of the bullpen next season. Brown had limited options at pitcher last season because of injuries, but has four pitchers lined up for next season.
"We're going to keep her throwing," Brown said of Jeannin. "If she can't take a game-and-a-half of throwing every day, we could start her three or four innings, or have her come in (as a reliever) for the fifth, sixth and seventh innings."
Jeannin said her hope was to be one of the starters next spring. Another hope is to get the form back from her freshman and sophomore seasons at JCCC, when she had a combined 36-12 record.
"I really like my curve ball," Jeannin said. "It breaks into the right-handed hitters and jams them up a lot. I'm a ground-ball, out pitcher. I keep the ball down."
Jeannin won't constantly zip fast balls past opposing hitters, but she's known for the effective movement of her off-speed pitches. In fact, an umpire was so impressed by her pitches, he said he hadn't seen that sort of movement from anyone except Cat Osterman, who formerly pitched for the Texas Longhorns.
"I wouldn't compare myself to her," Jeannin said of the lefty Osterman, who holds the NCAA career strikeouts record and was a gold medalist in the Olympics for the USA Softball team in 2004. "But I guess it was exciting to hear that. She just has amazing movement. When I went and watched her play KU, I sat behind the plate to see her stuff break."
Jeannin's perseverance suggests she'll see plenty of the field in 2008. She holds a 3.8 grade-point average and hopes to attend optometry school after she graduates from Truman State.
"I could tell instantly I wouldn't have to worry about her," Brown said. "She gives it her all in the classroom and on the field. She has a great attitude and is willing to work hard. She's a perfect fit for Truman."
Jeannin's JUCO dominance
Katie Jeannin experienced success pitching for Johnson County, but a stress fracture in her left arm lingered for the majority of the 2007 season.
- 2005: 19-4 record, 169 innings pitched, 136 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0.33 ERA
*2006: 17-8 record, 167 IP, 102 K, 21 BB, 0.75 ERA
^2007: 3-8 record, 79.1 IP, 26 K, 17 BB, 4.06 ERA
- - Freshman and sophomore years at Johnson County
^ - Junior year at Truman State