The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

June 11, 2013

Grove's Jessica Walker voted Gatorade player of year

— Good things keep happening for recent Grove High School graduate Jessica Walker.

The right-handed Walker, whose pitching helped the Ridgerunners claim the Oklahoma Class 5A softball championship last fall, has been named the state’s 2012-13 Gatorade Player of the Year.

Said Walker: “I’m blessed. I’m just glad I was nominated. There are a lot of great softball players in Oklahoma.”

The Ridgerunners finished 28-5 under Jeremy Collins and, Walker happily noted, Collins was named coach of the year in Class 5A-6A by the OHSFSCA.

Walker, third baseman-utility Taylor Dodson and catcher Ashleigh Tramel represented Grove on the Large East and that team handled the Large West 9-0 last Saturday at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

“We practiced on Friday,” Walker said. “I believe we (the Grove trio) played about four innings apiece in the nine-inning game. I pitched the last three innings. I didn’t allow a hit. But I’m not sure about strikeouts.”

Walker is headed for NCAA Division I Jacksonville (Fla.) University of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Dodson will attend Kansas and Tramel has signed with this year’s NCAA Division II champion Central Oklahoma of the MIAA.

The 5-foot-8 Walker, as a senior, finished 25-3 with a 0.59 ERA. She struck out 278 batters in 178 innings. Also, she averaged .388 with three home runs and 21 RBI.

Walker is busy this summer with Jacksonville workouts and traveling with the Tulsa Shootout 18 Gold.

“Every day I’m not playing I’ll go to the gym or field to work out,” Walker said. “I was seen by the Jacksonville coaches in Orlando (Fla.) with the traveling team.”

Ali Higgs is the Jacksonville head coach. The Dolphins were 30-22 overall and 11-15 in the A-Sun this spring.

Walker, who logged a 4.0 GPA at Grove, plans to study pre-med at Jacksonville.

The Oklahoma honor makes her a finalist for Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year.

Jessica is the daughter of Cindy and Bryan Walker. The Walkers are graduates of McDonald County High School — mom attended Crowder College — and the family moved to Grove as Jessica was entering the eighth grade.

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