Jackson junior Yanina Sherwood is The Herald’s 2023 Softball Player of the Year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jackson junior Yanina Sherwood is The Herald’s 2023 Softball Player of the Year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Herald’s 2023 Softball Player of the Year: Yanina Sherwood

The Jackson junior and UNLV commit went 24-1 with 255 strikeouts and helped lead the Timberwolves to the 4A state title.

Yanina Sherwood took her game to a whole new level during the spring 2023 season. When it was all said and done, the 6-foot junior right-hander put together a special year for Jackson and reeled in a deep bag of accolades along the way.

Sherwood’s night-in and night-out dominance in the circle was one of the biggest reasons why the Timberwolves rolled towards a Class 4A state championship. Her 24-1 record marked the best in school history.

After backup pitcher Allie Thomsen suffered an injury before the start of the season, Sherwood trucked through the year while holding down the starting spot in solo-mode, and she didn’t disappoint.

Sherwood pitched a classification-best 164 innings over the course of the year, and there weren’t many moments where she seemed to slow down.

“She was a true workhorse,” Jackson head coach Kyle Peacocke said. “She knew early on in the year that Allie was gonna be out a while, and she took that challenge head on. She was able to deliver some really spectacular performances for us. Every really good team that we went up against, she would put up a lot of zeros and was the real backbone of our team.”

Her work in the circle led to 255 total strikeouts and a 0.55 earned-run average, and players who went up against her batted only .141. She relinquished just 13 earned runs for the season as Jackson finished with a 26-1 overall record and a first-place state trophy.

For her superb junior season, Sherwood is The Herald’s 2023 Softball Player of the Year.

Sherwood added a changeup and a rise ball to her tool-set in addition to her screwball and curve, turning her game into a complete package and a nightmare for opposing batters.

“She’s worked really hard to develop into a pitcher with a lot more in her repertoire,” Peacocke said. “… She can place her pitch in multiple parts inside and outside the zone. In terms of her accuracy and where she wants to put a pitch, it was absolutely incredible.”

When it came to taking on the ultimate challenge of throwing in every contest that included a full postseason run, Sherwood knew she could manage.

“When it comes to softball, I’ve never really had to do what I did this year,” Sherwood said. “In a sense, I knew I had it in me, but I’ve never gotten the opportunity because on most teams and club teams, there’s always a bunch of pitchers. So, you have to have a lot of heart to do something like that. You kinda just have to breathe, switch into different gears. It was mind over matter, that’s what I usually had to tell myself.”

In addition, Sherwood also made a climb on the offensive side of the ball, upping her batting average from .288 in 2022 to .381 in 2023. She also contributed 24 RBI and belted five home runs while being slotted in as Jackson’s No. 3 hitter in the lineup.

“To be in that position of the three hitter … it’s someone other teams look at while pitching,” Sherwood said. “Just having multiple aspects in my game, not just having to throw a ball and sit back down. I think it’s important that everybody stays involved in a game. It also gives me an advantage as a pitcher as well, knowing what other batters are thinking in those situations.”

The season awards kept piling up for Sherwood, as she was named the Wesco 4A League MVP and was a first-team all-state selection. She also claimed state player of the year honors from both MaxPreps and ScorebookLive for all classifications.

After laying down the groundwork following a quarterfinals loss in 2022 against Skyview, Sherwood and company hit every bench mark they’d hoped for during the season.

“Last year, we obviously came up short, a bit because of the type of mindset we had going in,” Sherwood said. “I feel like this year, we just took steps overall as a group. We just worried about doing one thing, like winning Wesco, winning districts, and we ended up winning at state, which was awesome. That experience on its own led to growth for each individual on our team.”

The UNLV-bound star’s well-kept demeanor on the field is something that rubbed off on her teammates during season-defining moments throughout the season.

“She’s always very confident in herself, and the great thing is she has a lot of respect for her teammates,” Peacocke said. “She has an infectious personality and attitude. She’s gonna have fun playing the game, but she’s also very serious when she gets in between the lines and has high expectations for herself.”

Sherwood is an involved athlete and ends up committing to softball about 9 or 10 months out of the year. She was also a part of the Timberwolves’ varsity volleyball team, which placed seventh at state in fall of 2022.

“I feel like when you do only play one sport, you can get lost in that one sport and lose some of the sense of fun,” Sherwood said. “So many people worry about their accomplishments or making sure they do every single thing right. I love that I play volleyball because I get to see the love in sports and how much fun they truly are.”

Peacocke also agreed in the validity that setting aside time for volleyball helped Sherwood.

“She’s really a workaholic,” Peacocke said. “If she’s not at practice, she’s gonna be at the gym or doing something fitness-wise. She’s made so many strides as an athlete. … It’s kinda rare for somebody who is so committed select (team)-wise to try other things out, too.”

Both Peacocke and Sherwood also agreed that volleyball played a role in her added athleticism, particularly when it came to pouncing on ground balls, which Sherwood backed up with a .984 fielding percentage on 64 total chances.

Sherwood has been a member of the aiBandits Breer 18U Gold team for the three years the program has been in existence, a club program that teammate and fellow junior, Rachel Sysum, also plays for.

In 2021, Sherwood got to compete for the Peruvian National Team after she was selected following an evaluation camp in Colorado.

Now fully tested, Sherwood will dive into the next season looking for a repeat with the rest of the Wolves squad, which only graduates seniors Simone Williams and Macie Dean.

“Ever since our freshman year to us being upperclassmen this season, with the team we had, all of us embracing different roles and being largely based off our junior class … it’s kinda crazy to think we’re only losing two starters,” Sherwood said. “And of course, those two people are an extremely key part of our team and we love them, but to think that there’s only a few spots to fill, we have a pretty good chance at doing the same thing again.”

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