By David Cohn
The members of Stanford’s softball class of 2013, in contrast to previous senior classes, have described themselves as not being the most vocal group of team leaders. Instead, the four seniors have relied upon their performance on the field to set the example for the rest of their teammates.
In Part II of this feature story detailing the journeys of softball’s four senior student-athletes, The Daily will profile the record-setting accomplishments of Jenna Rich and Sarah Hassman, while describing the positive impact that Rich and Hassman’s “lead-by-example” style has had on their fellow softball players.
Jenna Rich: calm leader
The first quality that Rich’s teammates consistently mention when talking about the third-team NFCA All-American is her calm demeanor, regardless of her own personal success or failure on that particular day.
“She doesn’t wear her emotion on her sleeve at all,” Hassman said. “I think what makes her such a good player is that you can’t tell if she has had a good day or a bad day. She has the same look on her face all the time.”
Senior Tegan Schmidt echoed the sentiments of Hassman while expressing her admiration for Rich.
“[When] I am asked who my role model is in terms of softball, I always say Jenna Rich,” Schmidt said. “Obviously, she is one of the most amazing athletes because her numbers show that. However, her demeanor and how she carries herself is one of the greatest things ever. I never really had an Olympic player as a role model [growing up], so coming here and seeing her play, she is definitely my role model.”
On the field, Rich has accomplished almost everything that can be achieved in a college softball career. In particular, she recently passed Sarah Beeson ‘02 to become Stanford’s all-time career leader in RBI. In addition, Rich is second in program history in home runs behind Olympic icon Jessica Mendoza ‘02. Along the way, Rich has twice been named to the NFCA All-West Region First Team to supplement her All-American honor.
Last year as a junior, Rich posted one of the finest seasons in recent program history. Undeterred by a shoulder injury that made it difficult for her to play in the field, Rich hit .368 with 11 home runs and 66 RBI, which tied a Stanford single-season record for the most runs batted in. Her .665 slugging percentage and 53 runs scored also rank in the school’s top 10 for single-season totals in their respective categories.
Under head coach John Rittman, however, Rich has learned that her experience on the Farm is about more than just setting personal records.
“Our coach emphasizes how you are never going to get the opportunity again to work with a group of people who are working toward the same goal,” she said. “I never really considered that until [coach Rittman] brought it up. It’s true. Once you get into the real world, you don’t really have that type of team environment where you are all working toward one goal.”
“I have always considered myself a team player,” she added, “but I feel like our coaches definitely engrain that in our minds.”
Sarah Hassman: ‘super’ senior
Lovingly referred to as the “super” senior in honor of the five years that she has spent in the program, Hassman is known among her teammates for her great advice. Softball alum Jenna Becerra ‘12 M.A. ‘13 called her “one of the hardest workers I know.”
“She is more of a silent leader,” Becerra added, “but her example speaks for itself. She is a very selfless person, as she is all about her teammates both on and off the field. It is not just a cliché. I still see the girls a lot of times over talking to Hass[man] about their lives.”
Hassman has had a distinguished career in a Cardinal uniform, as the Cupertino, Calif., product has one of the highest career batting averages in program history at .294. Hassman is also Stanford’s all-time record holder in stolen bases, as the speedster has stolen 99 bags in her career. In setting this stolen base record, Hassman passed all-time great Jessica Mendoza earlier this season.
Hassman produced a standout season in 2011, batting .398 and driving in 15 RBI while stealing 35 bases to set a Stanford single-season record. Her batting average from that season also currently stands ninth among the single-season totals for the program. In recognition of her outstanding campaign and her performance in the classroom as a Human Biology major, Hassman earned NFCA All-West First Team honors and was selected as a NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete.
After having her most successful year in 2011, Hassman suffered a devastating ACL tear 11 games into the 2012 season that forced her to postpone her senior campaign. However, Hassman has not allowed her injury to dictate her final year on the Farm; the centerfielder has started in all 53 contests for the Card in 2013 while posting a career-high 19 RBI. Hassman also once again leads her team in stolen bases, stealing 17 bags on 19 attempts.
When asked what would be the main takeaway from her five years at Stanford, Hassman cited the one quality that has become the defining feature of this softball class of 2013: perseverance.
“[To] never give up,” she said. “To never have that doubt in your mind that someone else is going to beat you. There are so many times in softball [when you face] so many different negativities that you can crowd your mind with, and just crash and burn from there. However, if you stay more toward the positive side, if you put in the time, if you put in the effort, if you put in the hard work, if you have the passion for it [softball], anything can happen.”
’This is what we work for’
As the 2013 regular season winds down, Stanford’s four seniors remain focused on the perennial goal of the program: reaching Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series. Rich, Gerhart, Schmidt, and Hassman all know that if this team plays to its potential in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the World Series will be within reach.
“We know this our last shot at going to the World Series, so we are really hoping to persevere,” Rich said. “That is the main objective.”
To that end, they will continue to provide the steady leadership that the rest of the team has come to expect from them. And maybe, with collective and continued dedication and focus, and perhaps bit of luck, the class of 2013’s dream will become a reality.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn “at” stanford.edu.