Daily Egyptian

Home runs spark Heese’s offensive output

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Power is a new tool for SIU softball’s sophomore right fielder Jessica Heese.

In her 45th game in a Saluki uniform, Heese hit her first home run — a grand slam against Saint Louis on March 16.

The homer capped off a nine-run fifth inning that propelled SIU to a 14-2 run-rule win.

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The sophomore said the first home run was important, but she doesn’t really swing for power.

“My summer ball coach would say I’m a power hitter, but up until a couple weeks ago I’ve been a consistent singles and doubles hitter,” she said. “I just want to hit the ball hard and that’s all I go for.”

It didn’t take long for Heese to strike again. In the Dawgs’ next game, a 4-3 win against Loyola on March 19, Heese hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Heese said more consistent playing time has helped her hitting.

“Confidence is key to a lot of things because a lot of things are mental,” she said. “It’s about getting in there and getting the reps to make me more confident.”

Last season Heese played in 28 games, starting nine. Seven of her starts came while then-senior right fielder Meredith Wilson was injured.

The Platte City, Mo., native said she wants to be as good as Wilson, who hit .230 last season with five doubles and five home runs.

“I had Meredith in front of me and she hit the crap out of the ball last year,” Heese said. “I want to live up to all the hard work she put in.”

Not only was Wilson in the outfield, but so was Kalyn Harker and Merri Anne Patterson. Harker finished as a first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference player while Patterson and Wilson finished as second-team All-MVC.

Coach Kerri Blaylock said last season’s lack of playing time was never because of a lack of ability from Heese, but rather because of the defensive depth of the outfielders.

“We never really got to see her blossom,” she said. “Now she’s getting opportunities … we had seen her potential [in summer ball when recruiting Heese].”

This season she has started 20 of her 23 games and is second on the team with a .317 batting average, seven doubles and a .650 slugging percentage.

Jen Sewell, associate head coach, said when she’s not starting, Heese offers something the team didn’t have last season — bench depth on offense. 

“We couldn’t pluck someone off the bench for just one at-bat,” Sewell said. “She doesn’t need to see a pitcher and dwell on it, you can give her the information and she can go to the plate and hit the ball hard.”

Blaylock said if there was anything to improve in Heese’s game, it would be working on range in the outfield and going to get balls, which is what she did in SIU’s last game.

Heese made a diving catch on a would-be single that was about to land between herself, Patterson and sophomore second baseman Savannah Fisher in right-center field during the Dawgs 5-0 win against Illinois State on Saturday.

While she’s among team leaders in offense, her hot streaks and cold streaks have come in bunches. Heese has more games with hits than those without — 12 and 11 — and has six games with one hit, five games with two and one game with three. She has gone without hits in two-game stretches twice and once went four without a hit.

This is something Heese said she is working on.

“You can’t place who you are as a player off of one at-bat, one play, or one fielding inning,” she said. “If you make a mistake, you just let it go and go for the next one.”

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333

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