Home away from home
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
Finding the right fit is important for college students. As they look at all the different school, and what they have to offer, decisions sometimes just come down to comfort.
What will feel comfortable for the next four years?
St. Mary’s High School softball player Torrie Jenkins was looking for the right fit when she started looking at her college choices. Her stellar play on the field, and her amazing academics off it, allowed her to have choices.
Of course, Jenkins could have chosen to stay home at one of the local institutions (Niagara, Canisius, St. Bonaventure, UB), but she wanted a different challenge for herself. She wanted to see if she could make it away from home, but still be close to those who have cheered her on throughout her career.
What she saw in Cleveland State is an upcoming program. The community has that Buffalo feel, but is just far enough away from the Queen City where she can be her own person - and experience new things.
“After making my decision to play at Cleveland State, it felt like I lost 20 pounds. Knowing that I found my home for the next 4 years made me feel good and proud of myself,” stated Jenkins. “I felt like home at Cleveland State. You know, it’s right in the middle of the city and it reminded me a lot of Buffalo. Kind of like a home away from home. I also really loved the coaches and what their plan was for the team in the future.”
Jenkins is a winner, and she comes from a winning program. The Lancers have been one of the most constant programs in the Monsignor Martin over the past four years, or so. They have been able to bring in some great softball talent, and people, to the program and it shows.
Jenkins is just one of a handful from her senior class that is continuing to play softball at the Division I this year. Besides her senior class, there have been other young ladies who have gone to play at Division I level at places like Hofstra, Niagara, Canisius and Princeton.
Being able to compete with that type of competition in the practice only made Jenkins better as a player. It gave her the drive to be the best. It also made her earn her spot on the team. With so much talent at St. Mary’s nothing was given to her. Jenkins had to go out and work hard everyday to earn everything she had on the field.
“Practicing with the St Mary’s team was always my favorite. Knowing that we were all there to push each other to become better players always made for a good practice,” stated Jenkins. “Each and every one of the players made me a better player in a different way pushing me and picking me up when I needed it.”
Jenkins is a can do type of player. She played different positions during her time at St. Mary’s - doing whatever her coaches ashes her to do. But, pitching is where she wants to be. She wants to be in control of the game for the outset.
Jenkins wants to be that dominating force on the mound. She loves the competition of faces the opposing batter and trying to get them out. It’s what drives her. Jenkins has been working hard at her craft since she stepped in the circle at the age of 8. That’s when she knew she wanted to be a pitcher. Since then, she has worked at being the best pitcher she can be. She has worked on the mental side of the game as well. Jenkins doesn’t let herself get rattled on the mound. She doesn’t let the bad calls get to her. She just brushes them off and gets back to work.
“I have to be focused no matter what position I’m in. But when I’m in the outfield I always have to be thinking about “if this ball gets hit to me, where am I going” and when I’m on the mound I have to be so zoned into hitting my spots I have to be able to keep my composure on the mound,” stated Jenkins. “For me I’ve always wanted to be a pitcher. Ever since I was 8-years old pitching is something that I wanted to do. I worked really hard to get to where I am today as a pitcher. And from what I learned coming up, and hoping I can take to the college level, is that you have to keep your mind in the game to succeed as a pitcher. You can’t let the little things like being yelled, or the bad calls, get to you, because then you lose your composure.”
You could say it has been a lost summer for a lot of athletes because of the pandemic. Summer around Western New York is a big travel league summer. Players get their cuts in during the nice weather, and try to get in as many games as they can.
They work on things they probably wouldn’t work on during a short high school spring season, which was canceled this year. Jenkins was hoping to work on her game during the summer as the got ready for fall ball at Cleveland State.
Losing the spring, and half the summer, is almost like losing a year of playing and knowledge.
“Yes, every time I step on the field, whether it be for practice or a game, I learn something that helps me better myself as a player. With that being taken away I feel like I’m missing out on things that I could be learning from my coaches, teammates, and even other players,” stated Jenkins. “need to continue working on my pitching. I know a goal for me was to increase my speed some more before entering college. And without the season, I have to work on my own to get to where I want to be.”