Softball third baseman and catcher Jenna Cone broke onto the scene with her hard-hitting style of play, completing a record-breaking season to earn national recognition.
With a quick look at the numbers, Cone’s impact on the team is clear.
The freshman led the league with 18 home runs and posted a team-high .395 batting average. Cone also set GW single-season records for runs scored (47), RBIs (59), extra-base hits (28), total bases (125), slugging percentage (.822) and on-base percentage (.500).
“Jenna is a really special athlete,” head coach James DeFeo said. “Not only does she have athletic talent and a very high softball IQ, but she is a really good teammate and one the hardest, if not the hardest, workers on the team.”
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced that Cone was among the top 11 finalists for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award Thursday. The winner of the award will be revealed May 30.
Cone’s play also earned her Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Conference and All-Rookie distinction.
“Coach [DeFeo] really asked us to buy into what we were doing and I did my best to do that,” Cone said. “His coaching really helped develop [our skills] and I think my all-around game improved as the season continued.”
DeFeo credited Cone for her versatility as a player, allowing her to contribute in both offensive and defensive play. Cone posted a .957 fielding percentage in her 52 starts this season.
“Whatever position that we put her at, whether its third base or catcher, she takes pride in her defense just as much as her offense,” DeFeo said. “I think that’s what puts her in a very special class of athletes.”
The Trabuco Canyon, Calif. native attributed her smooth transition to college play to her strong support system, namely her sister Jayme – a sophomore pitcher for the Colonials.
“Coming [to school] from across the country is definitely a big adjustment,” Cone said. “It was helpful to have someone to rely on and turn to if I had questions to ask.”
The sisters have been playing softball together since they were four and five years old, encouraged by their parents’ love of the sport. For Jenna and Jayme, playing together at the collegiate level was the logical progression.
“I think as we got older we realized that we work really well together, so going to school together would be a great opportunity,” Jayme said. “We have family wherever we go, and our parents can see us playing [together].”
Though competition between siblings is par for the course, the Cones possess a mutual respect for one another. If anyone could have predicted Jenna’s standout rookie campaign, it would be her number one fan, Jayme.
“Athletically, [Jenna’s] never done anything poorly,” Jayme said. “Jenna is amazing because she’s so solid – I’d rather play with her than against her.”
Jenna’s standout performance this year was key in elevating the Colonials to 28 wins, setting a program record. The Colonials batted a .302 average this season, making it the first time in program history that GW has averaged more than .300 in a season.
Despite missing the postseason this year, the Colonials see promise of future success with the current squad, Defeo said.
“The sky’s the limit for this team,” he said. “They are pretty happy with the personal and team records that we set, but I don’t think they’re satisfied in any way.”
With infielder Paige Kovalsky and shortstop Megan Linn – the program’s all-time career hits leader – graduating this year, the Colonials will look to Cone and the hard-hitting rookie class to provide offense in the coming season.
Regardless of the personal and school records she set in her rookie season, Cone emphasized the importance of a team-oriented mentality.
“We always want to break what we did last year [and] set new goals,” Cone said. “I think the biggest thing is to keep improving and grow off the foundation we built [this year].”