It’s not the coolest or most intimidating nickname. It is, however, befitting of Whitney Jones.

“We call her a Swiss Army knife,” said Seton Hall softball coach Paige Smith. “There’s not a thing she can’t do on the field.”

Jones, a Skowhegan Area High School graduate, is having her best season yet as a senior for the Pirates. She has started every game for Seton Hall and is hitting .316 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 26 games.

“She and one other girl on our team are just gym rats — nobody works harder,” Smith said. “We also put her in a captain’s role this year. She’s just blown up in terms of overall confidence.”

Over her first three years at Seton Hall, Jones hit .235, with eight walks and 34 strikeouts — about four strikeouts for every walk. This season, in addition to the higher average, she has 12 extra-base hits (after having six the previous three years) and has walked 11 times against only five strikeouts.

Smith attributes part of that to pitch recognition drills. At one station, there is a player hitting, and another player standing behind the batter, judging the pitches. It’s also a combination of Jones’ confidence and experience.

“I think I’ve learned,” Jones said, “to trust yourself, to trust your coaches, to trust your teammates, and just trust yourself that you know how to play the game. When you start questioning yourself, that’s when bad things happen.”

At Skowhegan, Jones was a standout all-around athlete — as a junior, she was named both Morning Sentinel Softball Player of the Year and Girls Basketball Player of the Year — and played shortstop on the softball team. She has started a handful of games in right field for Seton Hall this season, but is mainly a first baseman, and a good one.

“She communicates well in the infield,” Smith said. “She’s got great range. It’s almost like having another middle infielder on the right side. She’s amazing over there.”

Beyond that, Jones has an effect on her teammates, one that’s even greater than what you’d normally expect from a captain.

“If you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘Rudy,’ — Whitney is Rudy, only with more athletic ability,” Smith said. “Everyone on the team wants her to be successful, because she works so hard. Everybody knows that when Whitney talks, it’s time to listen, because everything that comes out of her mouth is gold. She’s just a good person.”

For Smith, that’s all encapsulated in a scene at the end of the team’s motivational video. There’s a still photo of a pitcher, sitting on the bench after being taken out of the game, clearly upset. Also in the photo in Jones, with a hand on the pitcher’s shoulder, taking time to console her.

“That picture, 100 percent, is who Whitney Jones is,” Smith said.

For Jones, the plan is to continue helping people. After graduating from Seton Hall, she will spend four years attending dental school at the University of New England.

“It’s been something that I’ve had a passion for since I was very young,” she said. “I think a lot of it was the community I was raised in. Poor health care was prevalent. I want to come back to Maine and provide that to under-served areas in our community.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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