By Will Willems
New Albany —
Former Zionsville and current IU-Southeast pitcher Jenna Swain is making a name for herself on the softball field.
Swain, who just finished her junior season for the Grenadiers, was named Kentucky Intercolliegiate Athletic Conference pitcher of the year, while helping her team win its second-straight conference tourney title.
“It was amazing feeling,” Swain said of winning the honor. “I didn’t know that I was going to win it. I knew that I had a chance, but when they called my name (at the beginning of the conference tournament) it was still a little bit of a shock. It is nice to know people recognize you for the work you do.”
After a strong freshman season, where Swain went 12-5 with a 1.81 ERA, she had a small step-back her sophomore season.
But she bounced back for her junior campaign, going 10-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 13 starts.
She led the team — and set the school record — with three saves on the season and also had three shutouts.
Swain allowed just 56 hits in 80.1 innings pitched and struck out 99 batters. Opponents batted just .188 against her this past season.
Swain said bouncing back this season to be the conference pitcher of the year was a big accomplishment.
“It was very rewarding,” Swain said. “Last year, I didn’t show my true ability pitching. I came out with a vengeance this season and showed people how well I can pitch.”
Swain gave a lot of credit to first-year head coach Joe Witten for her ability to bounce back.
“His coaching ability really helped us this season,” Swain said. “He gave us a lot of new techniques and really brought us together as a team. It was a big family atmosphere. (For me personally) he was a pitcher in college and he really helped me with my workouts in the pre-season and post-season. He had me running a lot to build up my stamina so that I could go complete games and be able to pitch well in back-to-back games. He really built up my confidence.”
Swain currently is second all-time in IU-Southeast history in appearances (70), strikeouts (271) and wins (27).
She is also fifth all-time in winning percentage.
Swain said that it has helped her that she was able to get a lot of appearances her freshman year.
“It did help a lot because I was able to get a lot of my nerves out of the way,” Swain said. “It is a lot different than high school or travel ball. To be able to pitch a lot as a freshman and have some success, it was able to get rid of a lot of my nerves.”
For the second-straight season, IU-Southeast won the KIAC Conference Tournament and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament.
They set a school-record with 36 wins (with just nine losses). Swain was the winning pitcher in the championship game and had a 2-0 record in the tournament.
Swain says the key to pitching in big games was her ability to focus one batter at a time.
“When I get up on the mound, I just see the batter,” Swain said. “I just go after every batter the same way. You can’t think about anything else other than getting that batter out. If they hit the ball, they hit it. You have to move on and focus on the next hitter. You have to have confidence you will get hitter out.”
Zionsville has had a decent number of players move on to college ball in the past few seasons, but haven’t quite had the team success — winning just one sectional since 1996.
Swain said that it is exciting to have the team success to go along with personal accolades.
“It is very rewarding,” Swain said. “To have a successful team helps build confidence compared to when the team isn’t doing as good. We have been a successful team the past couple of years because we have come together as a family.”
While achieving a lot of strong performances in her first three years, Swain is far from satisfied about her career so far.
She said whenever she tops one goal, a new one is set.
“Whatever I do in one game, I try and top it,” Swain said. “If I get seven strikeouts in one game, I try to get eight in the next game. If I have troubles with a pitch in one game, I focus on being better with it the next. I keep trying to get better. Coming into my senior year this season, I want to perform my best. I want to get back to the national tournament and end my career on a really high note.”
Swain said that in the off-season she will be running 3-4 times a week and throwing a couple of days a week to stay in shape.
She said after the season ended she took a short break to recover, but will be getting ready shortly.
For any young softball players that are looking to have success in softball, Swain had a key message — work hard and have fun.
“Do what you love,” Swain said. “If you don’t want to do it that’s fine, but have fun. If you take yourself too seriously, when things don’t go your way it is going to be hard to bounce back. So keep working hard and make sure you are having fun.”
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CNHI Photo courtesy of the News and Tribune
IU-Southeast pitcher Jenna Swain delivers a pitch this season. She was named KIAC Pitcher of the year.
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Times Sentinel File Photo
Jenna Swain delivers a pitch during her senior season at Zionsville. She has gone on to have success at IU-Southeast.