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ALL-AREA SOFTBALL: Bears’ Jacobs did it all
For four years, Riverbend senior Brittany Jacobs did whatever the Bears’ softball team needed from her.
For most of the time, that meant playing shortstop, a position she manned more than adequately.
She’s been an outstanding hitter—a player other teams had to pitch to carefully.
This week, The Free Lance–Star unveils its spring All-Area high school sports team. Here is the schedule:
Wednesday: Track and field
Saturday: Girls soccer
Sunday: Boys soccer
And this year, that also meant taking to the pitching circle, where Jacobs excelled when injuries thrust her into that role, too.
For that versatility, she’s The Free Lance–Star’s 2014 softball player of the year.
“She’s just an athlete,” Riverbend coach Josh Johnson said. “She’s a competitor. She wanted to do whatever she had to do to win.”
Jacobs hit .366 this year with 15 RBIs, and that average jumped to .455 against Conference 4 competition.
More striking were her pitching numbers.
Though there were others in the Fredericksburg area who had an ERA better than her 2.35 (compiled over 41 innings), and certainly several pitchers with more than her 31 strikeouts, those other players were actual pitchers. Jacobs was a shortstop thrust into the role because her team needed her.
“I got taken by surprise,” said Jacobs, who used to pitch for her travel softball team, but had moved away from the position. “I hadn’t really worked on it at all. I just expected to be at short.
“But I’m willing to play any position to get our team where I needed to be.”
Jacobs shifted to the circle when freshman standout Mallory Ratcliff was hurt. Johnson saw Jacobs as clearly the best option to fill the void.
“She was willing to sacrifice for the team,” Johnson said. “We just said, ‘Brittany—you’re it.’”
A competitive fire burning inside Jacobs helps.
Her family includes a flock of male cousins, and when they played, they played to win. Tackle football, basketball—whatever the game, everyone did what they had to do to finish on top.
“Everybody in my family is like that,” Jacobs said. “Family games always get heated. I grew up being very competitive.”
And there’s a mental fortitude all the Jacobs family shares.
“We’re very mentally tough,” she said. “We learned not to listen to anybody and just go through it and stay within yourself.”
That toughness and competitive nature showed on the basketball court at Riverbend, too, where Jacobs was frequently assigned defensive responsibilities against the other team’s biggest inside player.
“They knew I could shut her down and I wasn’t afraid,” Jacobs said. “I’d do what I needed to do for the team.”
Johnson thought having to focus on pitching, too, may have held Jacobs back at the plate a little.
“I think the first game it hurt me,” the senior said. “It made me a lot more tired. After the first game, I think it helped me. I was in the game constantly. I knew I could help my team offensively and on the mound.”
Jacobs will play softball next year at Barton College in Wilson, N.C. She said she’ll remember how close her Riverbend teammates became, as the Bears grew from a struggling program her freshman year, to one of the area’s best teams the last two seasons.
Johnson said she’ll be remembered, too, for the impact she made on her teammates.
“She’s the one other people look up to, offensively and defensively,” he said. “She was the heart and soul of our team—no doubt about it.”
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045