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Hart catcher making name for herself

Posted: May 4, 2008 1:39 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Jessica Shults, Hart High's softball catcher, shows her intensity earlier this season. Schults calls the pitches for the 22-5 Indians.

Jessica Shults is self-admittedly loud. Like your typical teenager, she likes to talk, a lot. On the softball field, that enthusiasm has made the Hart junior a special player.

Shults has an innate ability to mix fun with work.

"She's such a happy kid that some people think she's not serious but she is serious and her teammates know that," Hart coach Steve Calendo said.

Perhaps the position she chose, catcher, fits her personality to a T.

She is the patrolwoman of the defense, so to speak.

She has no problem barking out the defensive signals and putting her teammates in the right position.

"She has really grown into (a leadership) role," Calendo said.

So much so, that for the first time in his coaching history, which has lasted over 12 years, Calendo has let his catcher call the pitches.

"I like catching because you could kinda see the whole field," she said.

Originally Shults wanted to play baseball.  She wanted to be just like her brother. He played baseball, so she played baseball. He hit left handed, so despite being a natural right hander, she hit left handed.

Eventually baseball would end and a new chapter would begin. It just ended a little abruptly.

"I got a hit by a pitch by a boy and my dad said I don't want to see that anymore," Shults said.

And her dad didn't. She switched to softball and her abilities transferred over.

Although the talent was there, Shults put a lot of sweat and tears into her craft as well.

Starting in high school, she'd hit ball after ball into the net in her backyard. She hit off a T or her dad would toss. It wasn't always easy.

Her dad is a police officer and she can be stubborn. Sometimes they'd butt heads. But much of the credit, she gives to him. "He taught me everything I know," she said. "He knows what he's talking about."

Those sessions in the backyard proved to be fruitful once Shults stepped to the plate for Hart. She showed so much potential early that softball power Oklahoma came calling and Shults committed there after an unofficial visit early in her junior season.

"I love the place and I didn't want to pass on the opportunity," she said.

Following her commitment, Shults proved why she was so sought after.

As the Indians rolled to a 22-5 record heading into the weekend, including a 15 game win streak that ended on Thursday in a loss to Valencia, Shults batted .473 with seven home runs. Saturday, she hit another three home runs in the Thousand Oaks Tournament to bring her season total to 10 (see sidebar on C1).

But she's not a free swinger. She has 10 walks and just six strikeouts.

"I don't really try to hit home runs, I just try to make contact," Shults said.

In addition to her offense, Shults is a leader behind the plate. It helps that the pitcher and the entire infield have been together with Shults since elementary school. So when the team struggled a little bit early at a tournament in Huntington Beach, losing consecutive games for the only time all season, it didn't take long for the girls to come together.

"We went to Huntington beach and got beat pretty bad and we realized we had to pick it up a little bit," Shults said.

They did pick it up, winning 15 straight games and going 8-1 in the Foothill League so far.

Aside from her goals of doing well in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and succeeding at Oklahoma, Shults wants to one day give back to the sport that's given her so much.

She wants to become a coach.

"You'd love to play for her because she knows when to be serious and she also knows it's game," Calendo said.


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