softball

Freshman catcher/first baseman Jurie Joyner has been a sparkplug for Penn’s offense in her first collegiate season and has played a huge role in the Quakers’ South Division title.

Photo: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

Penn softball has been firing on all cylinders recently, having won six of its last eight. And Jurie Joyner has played a big role in the team’s thriving offense.

The freshman catcher/first baseman has been a key addition for the Quakers, who have punched their ticket to the Ivy League Championship Series against Dartmouth.

The McDonough, Ga., native ranks among the Ivy League leaders in several batting statistics. She is the league leader with 33 RBI, and her .398 batting average, 13 doubles and .673 slugging percentage rank second. Of course, she rarely checks stats — and only after the season is over.

“I’m not focused on my personal goals,” Joyner said. “Right now, I really want to win this Ivy League championship.”

Joyner cam to Penn after four years on the softball team at Ola High School, during which she won numerous accolades and was first team All-State her junior and senior years

“I had a couple other schools that I was looking at that were all closer to home, [but] right when I stepped onto the campus, it felt like I needed to be here,” Joyner said. “I couldn’t pass an Ivy League education up.”

So far, Joyner has made a smooth transition but notes the weather in Philadelphia is different from that of Georgia.

“This year, when we had to play in the bubble for three months, it was crazy for me,” Joyner said. “I still have to wear my Under Armour sometimes during games and it’s almost May.”

Although she admits she was nervous coming into school, she has brought her bat as well as a positive attitude to the clubhouse. Joyner believes one of her greatest strengths as a softball player is her resilience.

“My dad taught me to not give up, to bounce back. When I get into really tough times, I don’t dwell on it, I just go out there the next day and I hit, I take ground balls and I make sure that doesn’t define me,” Joyner said. “One game doesn’t define me as a player.”

A familiar name on Ivy League press releases, Joyner has received the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award three times this season. In fact, she was honored three weeks in a row in late March and early April during a stretch in which she scorched the Ivy League.

Beginning in a March 22 victory over University of the Sciences, Joyner hit safely in 10 consecutive games. The 10-game hitting streak was snapped during the first game of a doubleheader against Yale, before Joyner ripped off a 12-game hitting streak that started in the second game later that day.

Joyner hit safely in 22 of 23 consecutive games, and has registered a hit on every day she has played except for March 8, where she went hitless in two games. The consistency she brings to the middle of the lineup has been advantageous for the team.

But having a key freshman cog in the middle of the lineup isn’t a novel experience for coach Leslie King’s squad. Last season, then-freshman Leah Allen took the Quakers and the entire Ancient Eight by storm, setting single season program records with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in a season en route to Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors.

However, Allen’s numbers became more pedestrian in her sophomore season, as the outfielder struggled at the plate early on in the 2015 campaign. Although Allen has improved her numbers of late — she went five-for-eight in two games against Columbia on Saturday — Joyner’s presence in the lineup and production at the dish helped make up for some of that production.

In the future, Joyner hopes to improve upon something she thinks is important for softball players — a calmer disposition.

“I’m trying to keep a more even keel,” Joyner said. “That’s something that the older girls have definitely taught me. You’ll see them have a bad at-bat or make an error and they won’t carry it with them.”

Penn will travel to Hanover, N.H., to play the Big Green for the Ivy League title this Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

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