By Matt Liebowitz
Jordan Strum’s fastball makes a mark—on the opposing lineup, who one after another leave the box dejected, bat in hand; on the catcher’s glove, which it hits with a satisfying and resonant smack; and on her coaches and teammates, who show the confidence of playing behind such a force on the mound.
Jordan’s fastball, most of all, makes a mark on Jordan. Her arsenal of pitches, which also includes a change-up, drop curve, screwball, and “riseball,” is, in a way, Jordan’s armor on the softball field.
“I’ve never been really good with [handling] attention,” said Jordan, a junior at Williston, who as an example, said public speaking is something she “doesn’t do.” On the mound for varsity softball, however, Jordan, 16, is a ball of energy and confidence.
“I’m always zoned in when I’m [pitching]; I’m not thinking about anything else,” said Jordan, whose fastball reaches into the upper 50s. “It’s the same for hitting. When [my] team’s cheering for me I can’t hear them, I’m so focused on them and ball and the pitcher.”
The focus has paid off; last year, with Jordan on the mound, the Wildcats won the Class A League Championship against longtime rival Westminster. Jordan shared co-MVP with Delaney Belinskas, ’16.
Jordan credited her coaches, Davey, Rodgers, Marsland, for their support and instilling in her a strong sense of confidence. She’s grateful to have eight girls out there with her who have her back. That camaraderie, Jordan said, has translated to her life off the field as well, and made her more poised and self-assured.
“I don’t like when people tell me what I can or can’t do,” said Jordan about the power she feels while pitching. “I like to take control of my own life.”
It’s crucial to note here just exactly how powerful and persistent a pitcher Jordan is. We know her team rallies behind her, but how often they do is almost unbelievable. For a sport so indebted to statistics, here’s one that stands out: In her time on the Williston softball team, Jordan—until last Saturday, April 15—had pitched every single inning of every single game. That’s two years and counting where Jordan has been the only Williston pitcher on the mound, ever.
The girl who broke her streak? Her younger sister, freshman Jersey, who threw two innings during Williston’s commanding shutout over Berkshire School.
Jordan loves her sister, but did not love watching the action from shortstop.
“It was the first time since I’ve been here that I’ve ever watched a pitch happen,” Jordan said. “I didn’t like it. I like being able to control what happens.”
Jordan’s skill, and her ability to so deftly control a game from the pitcher’s mound, took root early on in her original hometown of Raytown, MO, a Kansas City suburb. It was there, as a five-year-old, she began playing tee-ball, then moved up to coach pitch and then regular softball. Jordan had no interest in pitching. But when the coach, who also happened to be her mom, Jocelyn, put out the call, nobody responded.
“She asked multiple times, and nobody ever volunteered,” Jordan recalled. “My mom being the coach—I got stuck, and I just fell in love with it.”
Her mom, maiden name Johnson, is a 1991 Williston graduate. Known on campus as “Sis Jocelyn,” she played softball and hockey. Jordan’s parents recently moved to Somersworth, NH, and attend many of her games.
With the help of a pitching coach, Jordan’s strength and skill grew. She was soon playing on a travel team, the Kansas City Zephyrs. Her reliability and resilience as a pitcher has its roots here, where, Jordan said, she’d pitch three games in a row without tiring. As opposed to baseball, which takes a toll on the rotator cuff, throwing a softball underhand is a much more natural motion and requires significantly less recovery time.
Jordan began focusing on her mental acuity as well. “I used to let the smallest things get to me,” she said. “I was very emotional.” From age 10 to 13, she said her “main focus was not letting my emotions show.” A lesson she took from the years of inner, emotional practice: “Look confident anyway and it’ll intimidate the batters,” she said.
If her confidence on the mound came from a fake-it-‘til-you-make-it approach, it’s an attitude that’s seeped into Jordan’s everyday life. She might not feel comfortable as the center of attention, but her pitching prowess has put here there, and she is handling it with determination and resolve.
“I bring to the mound the mindset that I’m only thinking of the next pitch,” she said. “I don’t start thinking about the next inning. I control what I can now.”