Photo: Connor McCourtney
Senior Jenna DeLong has had a stellar softball career at Drake, and this season she became the Bulldogs’ career leader in strikeouts. The Times-Delphic had a chance to sit down with one of the best players the program has ever fielded.
Times-Delphic: Since when has college softball been a goal of yours?
Jenna DeLong: Since I was 12. I remember writing it in my calendar in high school. I decided I was going to work as hard as I could so my parents would not have to pay a dime for my education.
TD: What made you choose Drake?
JD: Drake chose me. I was playing in nationals and the coach saw me and asked me to come for a visit. I visited and really loved the campus. Drake also was one of the only schools that offered such an outstanding journalism program, which was what I was really interested in doing.
TD: Do you enjoy playing for Drake?
JD: I really enjoy playing here. I am glad I came here. Playing at a small school gives you so many opportunities. We travel, especially during breaks. And having the comfort of knowing I will play is a great aspect of small-school softball.
TD: How have you evolved as a player?
JD: I have evolved as a teammate both on the field and emotionally. I found out freshman year that there was a mental side to the game, too. I feel as though I am at my best now — this is as good as I am ever going to be.
Since this is my fourth year playing consistently, I have been able to recognize plays and players of other teams. Knowing this gives me the opportunity to strategize before games.
TD: How has your team evolved?
JD: Finding players with strong leadership throughout the past three years was a huge concern on our team; there was no one to look up to, to get the job done.
However, the seniors this year are trustworthy. Our bonds as teammates and friends make us stronger off the field than we have been throughout my four years here.
We train in the offseason three times a week at 6:30 a.m. We watch the sun come up together and watch it go down together at our night practices.
TD: What is your favorite memory?
JD: I would have to say that it was my junior year at Iowa. The stadium was packed and we won 1-0 on a squeeze bunt. It was such a satisfying victory for us, especially since they are our rivals. Not to mention, it was the game that led to my Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week nomination.
TD: What is your least favorite memory?
JD: It was our game against Southern Illinois. I was playing a really poor pitching game and got taken out. I was put in the outfield and played poorly there, too. Then I got taken out altogether. It was one of the only games I have sat out.
My coach reminded me as a senior leader I can’t take any game for granted, and that really hit home for me.
The emotional aspect of being a senior has yet to really hit me. I am playing each game with focus, and I’m determined to end my career strong.
I have such a love for the sport. And I am so thankful for the opportunities that Drake has given me to grow as a person and a player. I am proud to be a Bulldog.
Rising to the top
On April 16, senior Jenna DeLong climbed to the top of the Drake career strikeout list in a 3-2 complete game win against Northern Iowa. DeLong then earned her third MVC Pitcher of the Week award of the season (the sixth of her career) on April 19. DeLong has been one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent all-around players over her four-year career, producing at the plate and in the circle. Here’s a look at each week this season that DeLong was honored by the MVC:
April 11-17: 3-0, 0.94 earned run average, 22 strikeouts
Feb. 14-20: 2-0, 2.62 earned run average, 19 strikeouts
Feb. 8-13: 2-0, 0.00 earned run average, 22 strikeouts
(first career no-hitter)