By Chris McCarthy
Jamie McGuire didn’t miss a beat after exchanging her high school black and yellow softball uniform for her college red and white gear four years ago.
The 2013 Glencoe High School and 2017 Jacksonville State University graduate recently capped her outstanding collegiate softball career by helping the 2017 Lady Gamecocks win the program’s second straight Ohio Valley Conference championship and qualify for the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee in late May. JSU opened with a loss to Georgia before defeating Princeton in the playback bracket behind a pair of home runs from McGuire. A second loss to Georgia ended the Lady Gamecocks’ season at 42-12.
A senior catcher, McGuire led JSU in batting average (.349), home runs (12), RBI (35) and slugging percentage (.658). Defensively, she posted a fielding percentage of .987 and committed just one error in 110 chances in conference play. She also handled the conference’s top pitching staff in earned run average (1.69).
With McGuire as the team’s starting catcher the past two seasons, JSU won 85 games and went 41-1 in conference action.
As a result of her production, McGuire earned first-team All-OVC honors for the second straight season while being named to the All-OVC Tournament Team. She also was selected to the National Fast Pitch Coaches Association All-Central Region teams third team.
McGuire’s competitive softball career isn’t quite finished. She recently was selected to an Alabama college All-Star team that will scrimmage Team USA later this month in Auburn.
“It’s kind of sad that it’s over, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said McGuire. “We try to dominate the OVC as much as we can, and over the last few years we showed how far we could go in losing just one [conference] game. Playing on the big stage at regionals was definitely fun in showing everybody that we deserved respect just like the big SEC and ACC schools.”
A six-year member of the varsity and four-year starter at Glencoe, McGuire was named to the ASWA All-State softball first team her junior and senior seasons and was a four-time All-Etowah County selection. Following her senior season of 2013, McGuire was named The Messenger’s All-Area Player of the Year, Class 3A Hitter of the Year and Team MVP after finishing with a .602 batting average, a .703 on-base percentage, 56 RBI, 54 runs scored, 74 hits (including 36 for extra bases) and 19 home runs while striking out just twice. McGuire played a big role in the Lady Yellow Jackets’ 35-11 record and berth in the Class 3A South-Central Regional Tournament, where Glencoe fell one victory short of a spot in the state tournament.
McGuire pointed to the talent level as one of the tougher adjustments from high school to college softball.
“D-I college ball was definitely a challenge, and everything I learned in high school helped. In college, everyone’s a No. 4 hitter, everyone’s a No. 1 pitcher and everybody was the top player at her high school. So it was really fun playing with athletes who have much passion and love for the game as I did.”
McGuire had high praise for Jana McGinnis, who during her 24 years as JSU head softball coach has won 849 games and is a five-time OVC Coach of the Year.
“One of her big things about Coach McGinnis’ program is that she doesn’t only want to make you a better athlete; she wants to make you a better person,” said McGuire. “That alone shows how great of woman she is. It’s like she’s trying to prepare you to win championships while at the same time preparing you for life. Jacksonville’s just going to keep growing, and Coach McGinnis is going to make sure that happens.”
McGinnis, a former standout JSU basketball player whose retired jersey hangs in the rafters of Pete Mathews Coliseum, noted that McGuire elevated herself as both a player and a person during her time in Jacksonville.
“From the time she stepped on campus as a freshman to when she graduated, Jaime really evolved as a leader and did her coaches proud in terms of her development, growth and maturity. As a college coach, that’s what you want to see, for these girls that come in as kids to leave as strong women.
“Jamie was instrumental in all of our conference championships since she’s been here, and she’s been a huge difference-maker in our program, both as a hitter and a catcher. As a freshman, Jamie didn’t get the playing time that she wanted, and she made her mind up that she was going to earn that starting position. Besides regular practice, she worked with our strength and conditioning coach five days a week, and it really paid off for her. She’s a tough player, both mentally and physically. We wish we had her for another four years.”
McGinnis pointed out that her program places a great deal of responsibility on its catchers, and that McGuire handled the pressure in fine fashion.
“Jamie was considered the best catcher in the league the past two years, and at this level, catchers are an extension of the coaching staff. They’re managing both the defense and the pitching staff while at the same time communicating with the coaches in a lot of different areas.”
McGinnis also was impressed that McGuire earned a degree in accounting in four years, no small task when competing in a Division I sport.
“I’m just as proud of her for that accomplishment as I am for her success on the field,” said McGinnis. “The College of Business at Jacksonville State is not an easy program, and Jamie’s professors had the utmost respect for her, too. We’ve never had to worry about Jamie’s grades. She’s a true student-athlete. I have no doubt that she’ll be successful in whatever she does.”
McGuire, who played under Jason Gilley and Amy Barker Travis at Glencoe, is pleased with the school’s recent hire of Tommy Stanley as head softball coach.
“He’s a great coach and a great person, and I think he’s going to do great things for that softball program.”
This article was supplemented by www.jsugamecocksports.com