‘Give me the ball, I want to be out there’

Senior pitcher leads transitioning team

Nik Cunningham, Sports Editor

Every week The Shield will interview an athlete or coach about their life and the sport(s) they participate in. This week The Shield interviewed Jennifer Leonhardt, a senior pitcher, about softball and what it’s like to be a student and an athlete.

Jennifer Leonhardt has broken several school records as a softball pitcher in the last three years and hopes to continue doing so in this coming season.

Leonhardt is a biology and pre-dentistry student from Louisville, KY, earned the All-American honors and All-Midwest Region from the Division II Conference Commissioners Association last season. She threw 243 strikeouts, was named GLVC Pitcher of the Week three times and was the Louisville Slugger Pitcher of the Week once.

“My personal goal would be to finish this year on a high note and do better than I did last season,” Leonhardt said. “I was lucky enough to break a few records. So if there were a few more that I could break, that’d be great.”

Leonhardt said she would love to graduate USI with a regional championship and possibly a national championship, but she’s not really invested in herself, she’s just happy to play on the team and would like the team to gain experience.

“We’re very young, we only have five upperclassmen,” Leonhardt said. “So it’s kind of been a difficult year transitioning our underclassmen, but they’ve done a really good job and they’ve grasped onto our team and they just trust in what the upperclassmen and coaches tell them.”

To Leonhardt, transitioning the underclassmen into the team is key for them right now, because “softball is softball, no matter if you’re the high school level or college level” but the fact freshmen are now playing against grown women can be a bit jarring.

“We have 17-year-olds on our team, and I’m about to turn 22, that’s a big age difference and your body’s at a different point,” Leonhardt said. “So I just think the big thing for our team is going to be getting a lot of people the experience and just giving them the time on the field that they need to grow and it’ll benefit them.”

Growing up Leonhardt watched her brothers and her dad play baseball. She said she remembers always being at the ball field and while it wasn’t expected for her to play, it was something she always wanted to do.

“I just love the community that comes with like baseball and softball,” Leonhardt said. “And there are people I still talk to that I’d played with years ago or that coach me.”

Leonhardt was accepted at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and she hopes to always be involved with softball.

“I think the role of the pitcher has always been what I was drawn towards because I like the pressure of it and the appeal and having the control,” Leonhardt said. “I’m a very type-A person. So I feel like that translated a lot into softball, and with my role in the field, and I love it.”

Over the summer, Leonhardt is planning to give pitching lessons and would love to be a coach if there’s a chance for it.

“I feel like I have a lot of information I want to give back to younger kids and stuff,” she said.

Leonhardt said if there was one thing she wanted to pass to other players, it’s that the game is more mental than skill. Anybody can learn how to play but each player has to have the right mindset.

“I love it to this day like I love being like, give me the ball, I want to be out there,” Leonhardt said.