All-County Softball: Batten leaves mark at North

Moments after North Gwinnett's fastpitch softball team was eliminated from this season's state finals, the realization hit home for Jessica Batten and her fellow seniors.

High school softball was over.

And even though her playing career will continue next year at Furman, there are plenty of things she will miss about playing for the Bulldogs.

"Oh yeah, I'll miss it," said Batten, the Daily Post's Player of the Year in softball. "I'm trying not to think about it. After that last game, (North) Coach (Mike) Cavey had all the seniors sit down for a talk. Coach Cavey's not the crying-type person. He started crying and we all just lost it. It was horrible. He was talking about how it was going to be hard to find a senior class like ours. We had eight seniors and seven started. You just don't find that too often.

"I'm really going to miss it. I just try not to think about it."

At least if she had to leave high school softball, she left her mark.

Batten helped North to the state's final eight for the first time in Class AAAAA, putting together an impressive individual season along the way. The left-handed pitcher, an equally adept hitter, also was selected as the county player of the year by the Gwinnett coaches.

Her pitching ability and her bat both played parts in earning the Gwinnett Diamond Club honor, and so did her seven shutouts of teams that reached sectionals.

"I think (the county's coaches) saw that, this year especially, she was able to take control of the game from the first inning on," Cavey said. "She was just in control. And she was so multi-dimensional. She's a great pitcher, but they saw her hitting stats, too. She hit three or four (in the lineup) for us most of the year."

Batten hit .351 with 15 RBIs, but most teams will remember her for her pitching. She finished the season with a 16-5 record and a 0.62 ERA with 187 strikeouts in 146 innings.

But those impressive numbers were inflated because of what happened in sectionals and the state finals, when a back injury took her out of games and rendered her less effective at other times. The finish was less than ideal for a North team that reached the No. 1 ranking during the regular season, but fell short of its state championship goal.

"I'm sure it was hard on her (to be injured at the end)," Cavey said. "You work hard all year. You work in the offseason to get to the state playoffs and to the championship game, then you see you can't go (because you're hurt). You have to just sit there and root on your teammates. For me, being a pitcher, it would have killed me. And I know it killed her."

So the Batten of the regular season - 11-1 with a 0.16 ERA - was a different pitcher than the one that was hurt in the postseason.

"That's my only regret," said Batten, who has a 3.93 grade-point average and plans to major in pre-medicine at Furman. "I wish I could redo that last tournament if I wasn't hurt."

The finish aside, Batten still has plenty of good memories of her high school career.

"I'm really going to miss the locker room, just sitting around talking," she said. "We just all got along so well."