Graig Mantle

No one can ever say Jackie Gehrke-Jones never tried anything new.

The softball senior has gone from a right-handed hitter to lefty and from a shortstop to catcher during her four-year career at Cal Poly. She has been an All-Big West Conference Honorable Mention selection the last two years and is currently second on the team in batting average at .390.

With only six games against two opponents remaining in the regular season, Gehrke-Jones could be a part of the first Big West title in program history.

Cal Poly (34-14) is currently tied atop the conference standings with Cal State Fullerton (30-18) at 9-3 in league play.

“To go all the way this year, we just need to maintain what we have,” Gehrke-Jones said. “We have put in the sweat, injuries and hard work. We can finish this season on top and leave next year’s team with that to build on.”

Gehrke-Jones first got in the game at 11 years old with the support of her grandfather, who was involved in the softball community in her hometown of Rancho Cordova. When the time came to choose her home after high school, Gehrke-Jones immediately fell in love with Cal Poly and Bob Janssen Field.

With a new school also came a new approach to her game. Her freshman year, Gehrke-Jones made the switch from hitting to slapping. Although she had practiced both during high school, the right-hander was now batting left-handed full-time for the Mustangs.

Gehrke-Jones finished the 2006 season with a .320 average.

“My averages went up last year and I just carried over the confidence,” Gehrke-Jones said. “I am going to crowd the plate and if they hit me, they hit me. I have that variety in that I can slap and hit.”

Her junior year, Gehrke-Jones played shortstop for every one of the 47 games she took part in that season. With three years of shortstop under her belt, Gehrke-Jones made a challenging move as a senior. With her team in need of a catcher, she gave up shortstop and stepped in.

“It was a drastic change; being the catcher is not all about me,” Gehrke-Jones said. “I can tell the pitchers how their bodies are moving, the position is so oriented with the rest of the team. With a more central position, I feel more connected to the team. It is a stronger leadership position.”

Her favorite softball memory was when she hit her first home run during her junior year.

“Slappers don’t usually hit home runs and I pulled that one over the fence,” Gehrke-Jones said.

This is Gehrke-Jones’ last season playing for Cal Poly as she will graduate after fall quarter with a degree in English.

“Being a softball player in college has taught me a lot,” she said. “It makes you grow up. It really helped me academically. It really does teach you life skills, how to deal with people and take instruction.”

Cal Poly visits Cal State Fullerton on Saturday and Sunday before returning home to close the season against Pacific from May 11 to 12.

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