Woodbury a consistent mentor for Packers: Leads off, pitches for softball team
The Packers’ softball team, who lost five seniors in the offseason, began its championship defense last week, and it will look to senior pitcher and leadoff hitter Jolene Woodbury to provide a level of consistency for a fairly inexperienced team.
Woodbury is one of four seniors on the team, and one of two pitchers in the main rotation, along with junior Brittany Rheault. She also plays center field, but prefers pitching.
“There isn’t as much action in the outfield,” Woodbury said. “I love the mind games of pitching.”
Woodbury is the youngest daughter of Mark and Lisa Woodbury, both of whom are teachers at Cheney Middle School. She is a three-sport athlete — playing volleyball and basketball as well — but also enjoys rollerblading, singing in the school choir and “doing girl stuff.”
While she enjoys volleyball and basketball, softball is “definitely” her first choice.
“I’ve always had the most fun (in softball),” Woodbury said. “It interests me the most, and I have always been passionate about it. It definitely helps that the girls are all really close to each other, on and off the field. I can’t tell you how many stories start with ‘me and the softball girls.’”
Head coach Pat Johnson looks to Woodbury in tough situations due to her well-roundedness offensively and defensively.
“As the leadoff, she is kind of the spark we need offensively,” Johnson said. “She’s taken to that role well. We have a young outfield, so she has been a really calming influence in in center, and she is doing really well pitching. There is really nothing to complain about with her. To have her stay healthy would really be nice, because she will have to be there for us.”
That youth will have to be utilized on the field in this condensed season, but Woodbury is not worried about a lack of experienced varsity players slowing the team’s momentum.
“We look pretty good. We have some young girls that need experience, like any team would, but I think we are doing a good job getting them into shape. We did lose some key players, but we have girls ready to step up and they are doing a great job so far.”
Despite the offseason changeover, Woodbury sees only one outcome for her team: a successful state title defense.
“I don’t expect anything less,” Woodbury said. “You want to always stay positive, but I think we definitely have the leadership and the drive to repeat. We all want to be a part of that winning team.”
For this to happen, the Packers will look to Woodbury and the three other seniors — Jordyn Johnson, Ashley Sather and Lexi Lennon — to mentor the younger players.
“We have four really good seniors that are doing really well,” Johnson said, “and they have to lead this team and say ‘we need to pick things up’ when things aren’t working.”
In the fall, Woodbury plans to attend Jamestown College and earn a degree in pre-dentistry, hoping to become an orthodontist. She also hopes to try her hand at college softball.
“She’s never been a one-sport athlete, but if she’s willing to focus in on (softball), she could definitely play at that next level,” Johnson said.
“She’s alway a happy person. Nothing will ever come out of her that is going to be negative toward a teammate or another player. She would be a benefit to anyone that wants her, whether it be in athletics or in the workforce.”
Woodbury and the 8-2 Packers (6-0 in against Eastern Dakota Conference teams) will play an astounding six games against five different opponents in the next week, starting with Fargo South tomorrow afternoon.