Softball signs five for the 2014 season
Jada Power (left)/Jessica Walker (right) are two of the five players joining JU next season.
Jada Power (left)/Jessica Walker (right) are two of the five players joining JU next season.
With the 2013 first pitch only two months away, the JU softball team is looking forward to that and beyond as it signed five players for the 2014 season.

The new group is headlined by catchers Brooke Smith (Buena Park, Calif.) and Jada Power (New Port Richey, Fla.) who will be looked upon to replace senior Sarah Simon.

Also in the group is pitcher Jessica Walker (Grove, Okla.), corner infielder Stephanie Frances (Land O’ Lakes, Fla.) and outfielder Charli Bradshaw (Hollis, New Hampshire).

“I am really excited about this class,” JU head coach Ali Higgs said. “We have a great mix of athleticism, power and versatility. Each one has a strength that will make an immediate impact and allow them to contribute on day one. I don’t think we could have found five better athletes and people to join our team next fall.”

Smith, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School, has helped the Fighting Irish to spot in the playoffs all three seasons. She also played basketball during her freshman and sophomore seasons, earning two playoff berths.

“The first time Coach (Laura) Taylor and I saw Brooke we knew she had to become a part of our team,” Higgs said. “She is one of the top catchers out there. Her skills and natural instincts behind the plate will ensure an almost flawless transition in filling Sarah Simon's shoes. She has great presence in the batter's box and we look for her to step in right away and make an impact.”

Power, a senior at River Ridge High School, has split time at catcher, third base, shortstop and outfield during her high school tenure. As a junior, she led Pasco County will 19 home runs to earn second team all-conference honors. She was first team all-conference and all-county during her sophomore campaign.

“Jada is the type of athlete that every coach wants,” Higgs said. “She is primarily a catcher and third baseman, but can pretty much play any position if needed. Her ability to hit for average and power, along with her athleticism and versatility, will make it easy for her to find a spot in our lineup.”

Walker has helped Grove High School to 28 or more wins during the last three seasons, including earning the state title in her senior season. During the title run, she recorded a 23-5 record with 17 shutouts, a 0.64 ERA and 278 strikeouts. For her efforts, Walker was named all-state, all-region, all-conference and district Player of the Year. She posted career bests as a junior in ERA (0.46), strikeouts (352) and wins (28) to earn district Player of the Year, all-region and all-conference accolades.

“Jessi will add power and depth to our pitching staff next year,” Higgs said. “Her movement and placement is already "college ready" and her presence in the circle is unbeatable. The fact that Jessi can also hit for power really gives us the flexibility to create some different options in our offensive strategy. I am really looking forward to having her energy and intensity on the field.”

As a junior at Sunlake High School, Frances hit .563 with 34 RBI and six home runs for first team all-conference and all-county honors. She had 22 RBI in her freshman year to be named first team all-county and second team all-conference.

“Stephanie brings power to our offensive attack,” Higgs said. “She has a maturity in the box and understands what she needs to do to compete at this level. As a freshman, she has the ability to hit her way into the lineup, while also giving us depth at the corners.”

Bradshaw, a senior at Hollis Brookline High School, helped the Cavaliers to a 17-1 mark last season after hitting .532 with six home runs. For her efforts, she earned first team all-state honors. She helped her squad to the Division II finals to earn second team all-state accolade in her sophomore season.

“This kid can do it all,” Higgs said. “Charli has experience at almost every defensive position out there and will bring another solid bat to our offensive lineup. Her competitive nature and will to win are the intangibles that Charli will be able to incorporate into our team's personality on day one.”

The Dolphins begin practice in January to get ready for the 2013 season opener at the FSU Tournament Feb. 9.