Jackson is PI’s Female Athlete of the Month
Editor’s note: The Post Independent today begins a new, regular feature recognizing high school student-athletes. We will name a male and female athlete of the month, fall semester and year, nominated and selected by athletic directors. September’s male honoree will be featured Tuesday. Top academic achievements will be recognized close to graduation.
Over the last year and a half as a member of the Rifle Bears softball team, sophomore pitcher Kaitlyn Jackson has quickly established herself as one of the best pitchers on the Western Slope.
Selected by athletic directors at high schools the Post Independent covers, she is recognized today as the PI’s Female Athlete of the Month for September.
Last year as a freshman, Jackson had an impressive season as the No. 1 starter for the Bears, starting 19 games (13 complete games) and finishing with an 8-9 record, 4.98 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 95.2 innings pitched. This season Jackson took a major step forward, starting 19 games once again (16 complete games) and finishing with a 14-5 record, 1.89 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 107.1 innings pitched.
While she’s known mostly as a pitcher, Jackson really stepped up at the plate this season for Rifle, posting a .418 batting average with 10 doubles, one triple and three home runs to go along with 27 RBIs for the Bears, who finished 14-5 during the regular season before falling to Thomas Jefferson (5-0) and Pueblo Centennial (13-4) at the Regional tournament in Arvada this weekend.
“This award means a lot to me,” Jackson said. “Our team has really come a long ways, and I think my teammates have really helped me become a better and stronger player. I just wanted to work harder this season and make the team better, and I just knew that our team could do good things this year, so I knew I had to step it up on my part..”
Jackson certainly did that throughout 2016 both on the mound and at the plate as she was largely unhittable throughout the season and came up with two walk-off home runs, including a two-run homer against Eagle Valley in a 3-2 win in which she was down to her final strike and the Bears were down to their final out. Her heroics at the plate for Rifle were impressive, but where she continuously makes a name for herself is on the mound.
“I like pitching because I know that I do my very best out there on the mound,” Jackson said. “I really just needed to work on giving up less hits and striking out more hitters, so I really pushed myself to be a faster pitcher because I want to go to college as a pitcher.”
Her work during the offseason as a year-round softball player really paid off as Jackson allowed just under one hit per inning while averaging 12.33 strikeouts per nine innings for the Bears.
It’s really cool for me to get this award because it shows that my hard work is paying off,” Jackson said. “I come here [Rifle’s softball complex] every night after practice and hit and pitch, and every weekend I go down to Grand Junction on the weekends to play with my competitive softball team. They push me to be the best that I can possibly be, so it’s pushed me to want to be a better player.”
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.