Feb. 20, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – It’s going to really take something to top Jazmine Valle’s top collegiate moment in a Marshall softball uniform. However, it seems a Conference USA championship might do it.
Valle, the Thundering Herd’s three-year starter at third base, plans to cherish her senior season no matter the result. And after MU reached the C-USA Tournament title game only to fall 3-2 to Tulsa, there is only one more step for the native of Lake Elsinore, Calif.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Valle (pronounced Vi-A) said Wednesday in the Dot Hicks Field complex. “I want to make the (NCAA) regionals, but what I really want is a championship ring. I have to say that. I don’t want to leave here without a ring. I already know what it feels like just to get there.”
Valle, who was named to the preseason All-C-USA team, is hitting .296 with 5 doubles and 2 RBI as MU heads this weekend for five games in the Spartan Classic at UNC Greensboro – the alma mater of Herd Coach Shonda Stanton.
Valle is not sure whether that preseason conference honor is a curse or a blessing, it seems.
“I was (all-)preseason my sophomore year (2011) and I had a big slump,” said Valle, who with an average RBI season for her will reach No. 2 on the Herd career list behind the uncatchable 196 of Rachel Folden (2005-08). “That said, no, I’m very, very blessed.
“I don’t want to say I don’t take it to heart, but I don’t want to focus just on that. That’s not what it’s all about. It’s about loving the game. This is it for me (as a senior); this is all I have. With that, the results will come.”
She is one of the veterans – one of only four players left from her entering class in 2010, with Ashley Gue, Bri Anna Hope and Jessica Ferrick – and with 10 freshmen she concedes the Herd has growing pains.
“We’ve accepted that, and talked about it,” Valle said. “Yes, we have goals, but I’m a senior and it’s not about my stats. It’s about wins, that’s why I play, but it’s as much about love of the game for me now.
“This is all I’m probably ever going to play, so it’s enjoy the moment, loving the game for the love of it. It’s why I play, not just be a stat head, winning awards. Those will come through the process.”
That C-USA title the right-handed hitting Valle wants might be the only thing that can eclipse April 10, 2011, when Memphis was visiting Dot Hicks Field for a repeatedly interrupted three-game series.
Valle’s older sister, Janelle Valle, was the Tigers’ senior pitcher. In the bottom of the second of a Memphis win, younger sis homered off the older sister … yet that wasn’t the most cherished moment of the herd third baseman’s career.
“My sister’s a left-handed pitcher, and I was expecting it outside, and she knows that’s my worst pitch,” Valle said. “That’s where it was and I got it over the (left-center) fence.
In the videotape of the homer, Valle said her family members “are in the stands, and you can see them and one of them are cheering. They didn’t know what to do. And my grandma (Jean Fendley), she’s there with her head in her hands. Oh, my gosh.”
The moment Valle likes most to recall – and one captured in a framed photo in her room – came just prior to that game.
“That day was a special time,” she said. “My grandma had breast cancer, and it was breast cancer awareness weekend, so my grandmother threw out the first pitch and my sister and I walked her out to the pitcher’s circle. That’s my most special moment in college. Not the home run, but taking my grandma out there with my sister.”
Valle said one reason she wanted to come to Marshall was she wanted to play in C-USA like her sister. She said “five or six girls” from her high school (Temescal Canyon HS) went to C-USA schools. Valle said she knew at least one player personally on all the C-USA softball teams except UAB and Tulsa.
Now, she wants to add one of those to her resume.
“I’ll graduate this summer in health care, and I need an internship, so if you know anyone hiring …,” Valle said. “I want to go to UAB for grad school, and we play them in the conference (in Birmingham) this season, so that should be interesting.
“I want to go to UAB because it has the fifth-best program for health care administration, a very, very good program. I want to get a masters in that and be an administrator at a hospital one day, and coach softball, travel ball.”
Valle hopes to get a graduate assistant’s position at UAB, which does not have a GA position for softball. So, she will volunteer to work with Blazers’ softball in her spare time if she ends up at the Alabama school.
That’s then. What’s now is driving in runs from her No. 3 spot in Stanton’s batting order.
“I don’t really care about home runs; they’ll come,” she said. “The RBIs are a big deal; they’re relying on me for that. I drove in 40 my freshman year and 44 last year, but the sophomore year was a slump.
“My freshman fall here I really struggled offensively, but I excelled on defense. When the season came in the spring, it kind of flip-flopped. I don’t think (the Herd coaches) figured I’d hit that well. I don’t know if it was expected, but I thought I could hit for power.”
Marshall has lost to three nationally ranked teams (Michigan, USF and Georgia Tech), and has five one-run losses in 10 games. Valle is preaching patience.
“The only game against a ranked team we really didn’t perform and compete was the USF game (an 8-0 loss),” Valle said. “We’ve lost those one-run games, but we’re fighting. We’ve got a lot of freshmen. We’re 3-7, but we’ll be all right.
“I keep telling them we’ve got to believe, because once it clicks, it’s really going to click and we can be a well-oiled machine, and it will be hard to stop us. Until then, we’ve got to keep driving, keep working hard … don’t make the same mistakes again. Those are all things that are very important.”
That’s because, as Valle views it, circling the bases after homering off your sister is one thing, but a championship circle around your finger goes a lot deeper.