It’s not everyday you find a contact-batter, power-hitter, reliable starting pitcher, dominant closer, and even an occasional outfielder all rolled into one individual. In the world of Gaucho softball, senior Jennifer Davis does it all and she does it well.
This past Sunday in San Luis Obispo, Davis would prove her respectability by going down in history as the new holder of the Big West Conference’s all-time career strikeout record. Mustang Desarie Knipfer had held a previous record total of 798 since 1998, but Davis’ 801 strikeouts now merely mark the beginning of her historic achievement, with six games remaining on UCSB’s regular season schedule.
“I was really excited, and it’s a big accomplishment,” Davis said. “Strikeouts have always been one of my strong points as a pitcher, so to actually reach not only the school’s record but then the Big West Conference’s record kind of took me by surprise. I didn’t know that many people knew about it and a lot of the parents rose for a standing ovation in the middle of an inning, so I was surprised that so many people were aware. It’s awesome and feels really good.”
Besides fan support and the fact that Davis broke the record in the home of its previous holder, the Whittier, Calif., native also received praise from her teammates in light of this incredible feat.
“I’m very proud of her,” senior shortstop Brittany Putich said. “I was keeping count [of her strikeouts] in that game and I was out there telling her, ‘Five more! Five more!'”
Monday, Davis was named Big West Conference Player of the Week, a title that will join a host of other accolades this season, including two Big West Pitcher of the Week honors. She currently owns the 40th best ERA in the country, top ERA in conference, and dominant pitching performances against softball powerhouses Arizona State, UCLA, and Fresno State. Batting .417 (5-12) with a homerun, an RBI, and five runs scored over the weekend against league-leader Cal Poly, the right-handed pitcher also got two wins in the circle after fanning 15 Mustangs and throwing one complete-game shutout. It seems almost absurd to think anyone else could compete with such statistics.
“In one word, Jenn Davis is solid,” junior catcher Ericka Hansen said. “She has been all year and I know we’re really going to miss her next season. She is just solid all the way around and I love catching for her.”
In addition to her impressive pitching skills, Davis also boasts an uncanny ability to drive the ball. With a team-leading six homeruns on top of a .500 slugging percentage on the year, Davis has taken it upon herself to make major offensive contributions as well.
“I feel like I’m just as responsible as everybody else in the lineup to help out offensively, whether I’m pitching or not,” Davis said. “If it’s [freshman] MeLinda [Matsumoto], [freshman] Lindsey [Correa] or [sophomore] Tami [Weston], I feel like I should be working just as hard to hit as I am when I’m pitching.”
If you take a look in the UCSB softball media guide, you might notice the miniature font that was used to cram all of Jennifer Davis’s accomplishments as a Gaucho onto a single page. Immediately embracing her role as the team’s primary hurler in her first season, Davis became the league’s strikeout leader in both 2004 and 2005. Her highlights of last year included the most starts in the Big West and a tie for the school’s single-season win record. Now a senior, the one they call “JD” has continued to exude greatness, but she acknowledges that her success has a lot to do with her supporting cast.
“[The past four years] have just flown by. We’ve had our ups and downs on and off the field, but it’s just been an amazing experience,” Davis said. “This year has by far had the best team chemistry, the closeness, and been the most fun among every single person. I’m just going to miss it so much.”
And the game of softball will truly miss her after this year.