MILL CREEK — With superb situational hitting and glove-popping, bat-whiffing stuff, Jackson softball’s star senior proved she’s a multi-dimensional force to be reckoned with on Wednesday.
Iyanla De Jesus (formerly Pennington) fanned 16 and chipped in three hits, including a two-run single in the second inning, to boost Jackson to a 5-1 victory over Glacier Peak at Jackson High School, handing the Grizzlies their first league loss of the season.
It was also revenge for a 2-1 loss Glacier Peak issued Jackson on March 26. Ashley Jacobson, who didn’t play on Wednesday, clubbed a walk-off solo homer off De Jesus to propel the Grizzlies to victory that day.
But in the second meeting, De Jesus showcased a glove-popping fastball and devastating off-speed offerings to put away 16-of-26 Glacier Peak hitters via strikeout. The Coastal Carolina commit carried a perfect game into the third and a no-hitter into the fifth.
Her catcher, Hannah Greninger, said the battery was able to get by employing off-speed pitches early into counts.
“Her changeup was really great today,” Greninger said. “We used that a lot because Glacier Peak was going for them … And her rise ball was really working, too.”
The burgeoning chemistry between De Jesus and Greninger is an especially encouraging sign for Jackson, with the junior backstop in her first season as Jackson’s starting catcher. Sam Mutolo, who is a freshman on Western Washington University’s softball team this year, was De Jesus’ primary battery partner during Jackson’s state championship run last season.
“(De Jesus) is starting to get in a groove and I think it’s taken them awhile to get comfortable with each other,” Jackson head coach Kyle Peacocke said. “I think it’s starting to make a difference. (De Jesus) is starting to feel comfortable with what’s behind the plate.”
The Timberwolves (13-2, 7-2 Wesco 4A) did most of their damage early in the contest. De Jesus led off the bottom of the first by lining a single to center and was eventually brought home on Macy Tarbox’s RBI single.
In the bottom of the second, De Jesus brought in two more runs to push the Timberwolves’ lead to 3-0. The bottom of Jackson’s order set the table for their starting pitcher and leadoff hitter after Greninger singled and Kelsey DeFries and Amanda Wingert worked walks.
Putting up runs early was a key to the game, according to Peacocke. Especially against Glacier Peak’s ace pitcher Makayla Miller, who limited the Timberwolves to only a run in the first meeting.
It also allowed De Jesus to attack hitters throughout the course of her outing.
“It really relaxed me and really allowed me to hit my spots where my catcher wanted me to,” De Jesus said. “Throughout the game, I wasn’t as stressed. Just relaxed.”
De Jesus was also effective at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 at the dish with a double and a walk.
The Grizzlies (12-3, 8-1) didn’t go quietly, as Phoebe Schultz doubled to left-center and Haley Winckler followed with a single to advance her to third. Schultz eventually scored on the throw to second when Winckler stole second base.
De Jesus dispatched the final three Glacier Peak hitters to finish the game.
But a somewhat shaky ending doesn’t diminish too much from a dazzling performance overall.
“I think I just missed on some of my spots and they capitalized on them,” De Jesus said. “It is what it is and we’ll be ready for them in the postseason.”