Last Updated: Fri May 20, 2022 - 8:11PM
While Hempfield Area softball has a storied tradition that dates back more than two decades, the pinnacle of the program came during a historic 2017 campaign. One of the top players on that team, Jenna Osikowicz, is now front and center for the Seton Hill softball run to the NCAA Division II Super Regional. She’s the latest spotlight player for the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Osikowicz made the Hempfield Area varsity roster as a freshman in 2014, when the Spartans went 12-6 overall, including 8-4 in the section, but failed to qualify for the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs.
The next year was a different story, however, as Hempfield Area went 20-3 overall, including 11-1 in the section. As a result, the Spartans made the WPIAL Quad-A postseason, and subsequently defeated Seneca Valley and Shaler Area to reach the district title game. Against North Allegheny, the Spartans prevailed 3-0 to capture WPIAL gold. In the PIAA postseason, Hempfield Area ousted the Titans and Tigers once again, but fell to Cumberland Valley 1-0 in the state semifinals to conclude the season. For her performance, Osikowicz garnered First-Team All-Section honors.
In 2016, the Spartans produced another dominant campaign, including going 14-0 in section play. From there, Hempfield Area defeated Penn-Trafford and North Allegheny to return to the WPIAL Quad-A Championship. In that title clash, Hempfield Area bested Baldwin 2-0 to repeat as district champions. In the state playoffs, the Spartans defeated Greater Latrobe, Erie McDowell, and Chambersburg to punch their ticket to the PIAA Championship game. With state gold at skate, the Spartans edged Avon Grove 1-0 to secure the PIAA Championship, and finish the campaign at 25-2. In addition to again receiving First-Team All-Section accolades, Osikowicz also was named an All-State performer.
As a senior in 2017, Osikowicz was instrumental in the best season in team history. Hempfield Area went unblemished during the regular slate, including 10-0 in section play. In the newly-formed WPIAL Class 6A playoffs, the Spartans knocked off North Hills and North Allegheny to return to the title game. Against rival Greater Latrobe, the Spartans rolled to a 13-2 victory to secure the WPIAL three-peat. In the PIAA bracket, Hempfield Area bounced Central York, Erie McDowell, and Chambersburg to return to the state title game. In a matchup against Hazleton Area, the Spartans prevailed 5-3, concluding the perfect campaign at 27-0. Osikowicz again was named All-State and First-Team All-Section.
After her graduation, Osikowicz matriculated to nearby Seton Hill University, and made an immediate impact. As a freshman, she started all 40 games in the outfield, batting .294 with 23 runs scored and 14 steals. The Griffins went 23-17, including 13-7 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). In the PSAC Tournament, SHU defeated Shippensburg and Bloomsburg, but fell to Lock Haven and West Chester. The Griffins also advanced to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional, but dropped contests to Gannon and West Virginia Wesleyan to conclude the season.
As a sophomore, Osikowicz increased her production drastically, appearing in 47 games, including 45 starts. In those contests, she batted a robust .403 with 22 runs, 20 RBIs, a home run, and 12 steals. The Griffins compiled a record of 29-18, including 13-7 once again in the PSAC. In the conference tournament, the Griffins notched a win against Bloomsburg, but fell to West Chester and Gannon. For her play, Osikowicz was recognized as an All-PSAC selection.
In 2020, Osikowicz played in 17 games, hitting .390 with eight runs, five RBIs, a home run, and four stolen bases. Seton Hill went 7-10 before the rest of the campaign was cancelled as a result of COVID.
Last season, Osikowicz started all 46 games, hitting .411 with 30 runs, 26 RBIs, two homers, and 15 steals. Collectively, the Griffins posted a record of 32-14, including 25-7 in the PSAC. In the conference tournament, the Griffs edged Mercyhurst and Gannon 2-1 in a pair of best-of-three series. However, Seton Hill fell in two games to West Chester in the PSAC Championship series. Osikowicz once again was an All-PSAC First-Team selection, and was also named the PSAC West Athlete of the Year, as well as garnering multiple First-Team All-Region selections.
Utilizing her extra year of eligibility, Osikowicz returned in 2022, and in 50 starts has compiled a .466 average with 47 runs, 30 RBIs, three homers, and 20 steals. She repeated as the PSAC West Athlete of the Year, and again received recognition as an All-PSAC First-Team honoree. Meanwhile, the Griffins have enjoyed a historic run, posting a mark of 40-10 overall, including 12-4 in the PSAC. Although Seton Hill lost two of three games in the PSAC Tournament, the Griffins rebounded, winning all three games in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional, thus advancing to the Atlantic Super Regional.
Jenna dedicated her time to field questions about her unique approach to hitting from both sides of the plate, her fondest memory at Hempfield Area, and her bevy of superstitions on game days.
Q: You were recently named the PSAC West Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season. What does that accolade mean to you?
A: I am incredibly grateful to be named the PSAC West Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season. It means a lot to me, because I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this sport on the field and in the weight room. It also means so much because there are so many talented athletes in the PSAC.
Q: What is your best attribute as a player?
A: I would say my best attribute is the ability to hit from either side of the plate. If one side isn’t working for me that day, I am able to get a different look at the pitches from the other side.
Q: You primarily bat left handed, but also hit from the right side on occasion. What factors into that decision?
A: It normally depends on which side I am seeing the ball better from that day. I also like to see what pitches the pitcher is throwing, and that normally helps me decide which side of the plate to start out on. It also depends on the situation at that moment. If there’s runners on, I normally like to hit the ball right handed, because I feel I have a better chance of scoring those runners from the right side. If there’s not any runners on and I’m focused on trying to get on base, I normally go left handed. But again, it all depends on which side I’m seeing the ball better from that day. There have been a few instances where I’ve hit from the left side with runners on, just because I was seeing the ball really well from the left side of the plate that day.
Q: What have been the biggest keys in the Griffins reaching the super regional?
A: The biggest keys in the Griffins reaching the super regional is the fight that this team has. Our entire team has been working so hard, and you can see the drive in each and every one of us. Our team has a lot of depth, which allows us to push each other to be better. Also, our coaches have been preparing us for the season and postseason all year long, not only on the field, but in the weight room, too. They also ensure we are successful in the classroom.
Q: What team and individual goals did you set for 2022?
A: A team goal we set for ourselves was to win the PSAC Championship this year. Although that didn’t happen, we won our regional bracket and now we’re at the super regionals and we couldn’t be more excited. An individual goal I set for myself was to bat over .400 again this year, steal more than 15 bases, and to enjoy my last year as a fifth-year senior. As we get deeper into the postseason, I find myself becoming more sentimental and enjoying the small moments with my teammates. I also love looking into the stands and seeing my parents there cheering me on. I’m actually very fortunate to still be playing right now. Back in the PSAC tournament, I broke my nose. I thought my softball career was over at that moment. However, God had other plans. I was extremely lucky and didn’t get a concussion, and I am currently playing with a broken nose. I plan to get surgery at the end of the season to fix it.
Q: What factored into your decision to return for a fifth year?
A: I couldn’t see myself not taking advantage of this opportunity to play one more year of softball and obtain my MBA. When making the decision to come back, everyone was telling me “You have the rest of your life to work, enjoy one more season” and that’s what I decided to do. Apart from the softball aspect, I felt obtaining an MBA would allow me to have higher chances of obtaining a job coming out of school.
Q: What led to you attending Seton Hill?
A: When I was going through the recruiting process, my Grammy passed away. She meant the world to me, and I realized I didn’t want to be far away from my family. I visited Seton Hill University and I loved the small campus atmosphere and the softball team. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes away from my house. Since I’m so close to my family, I’ve been able to see them a lot, and they’ve been able to attend mostly all of my games.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: I have two undergraduate degrees - one in human resources, and one in marketing. I also have a minor in Spanish. I am currently working on an MBA and will graduate in August of 2022. A dream of mine is to own a business. I haven’t decided between a wedding venue or a sports complex.
Q: What has been your most enjoyable college class?
A: My most enjoyable college class was client focus special topics taught by Dr. Giunta. This class focused on digital trends that are occurring and how they’re affecting marketing and HR departments. I really enjoyed this class because I felt it gave me a look into the workplace before I even got there.
Q: You were part of a historic run at Hempfield Area. What were the biggest reasons the Spartans were so successful?
A: The perfect season at Hempfield is a memory I often think of and reminisce on. There were several reasons the Spartans were so successful. One of those reasons was the talent our team had. My senior year of high school, there were seven seniors and all of us were committed to play softball at the collegiate level. The other two starters were younger and also committed to play softball at the collegiate level a little later on. However, that talent we had was fostered through the work ethic Coach Kalp instilled in each one of us that I still carry with me today. I specifically remember going into practice the morning after we won the WPIAL championship, and he said, “Yesterday was a great day, but it’s over now. What have you done for me today?” He kept us working hard every day. His practice plans were scheduled down to the second, and we worked on the fundamentals every day. Our team chemistry was also a big reason for our success. Many of us played travel ball and little league together from 10u on.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory?
A: My fondest high school memory was winning the state championship my senior year. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I specifically remember my teammates and I putting the gold medal around Coach Kalp’s neck, and the joy we saw on his face. In that moment, we all knew that all the time and effort we put in had paid off. It was also a very sentimental day because I knew I wouldn’t put on a Spartan uniform again.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or rituals before, during, or after a game?
A: I have many superstitions, and my teammates know how superstitious I am. First, my nails have to be painted white during softball season. The day of the game, I have many rituals. First when I wake up, I pray. Praying allows me to relax and talking to God is always a good start to the day. I then shower and get dressed. I also have to wear the same slider and sports bra combination all the time (and yes, I wash them). After that, I make my game day breakfast, which is a ham, egg, and cheese bagel. The ham goes on the bottom, then the egg, and then the cheese. Then I grab my favorite energy drink, Uptime. While on the way to the field, I listen to the same songs every game day. One of my favorites being Enter Sandman by Metallica. Some other songs I listen to are No Excuses and Destiny by NF. I also listen to Crowd Chant by Joe Satriani; it reminds me of all the little league days when my Mom, Dad and I used to get pumped up in the car to go play softball. When I get to the field, Alexis Bonatch always braids my hair, and it’s the same hairstyle every time. When warmups start, Nichole McClendon and I always hit together. I always hit lefty first and then hit right. During the game, I always pray. I talk to God constantly. He calms my nerves and allows me to play to my best ability. After the game, I thank God for the ability to play the game and the result of the game, no matter whether we won or lost, because I am so grateful to still be playing this sport.
Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?
A: I can’t really say I have a celebrity dream date. My boyfriend Dylin is a sweetheart, and I really enjoy my time with him. We go to LA Fitness together frequently and he really helped me train for softball season. He used to play professional baseball, so we throw together and lift together. He pushes me in the weight room, and I’m really appreciative of him.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island with one teammate, who would you choose? Why?
A: I don’t know if I could choose only one! I have so many dependable and reliable teammates. I would say either Morgan Ryan or Lauren Bertig. Morgan because we grew up together and we’ve made so many memories together from 10u travel ball to high school to now our last season of softball. Lauren because she recently became my friend about two years ago when she transferred to Seton Hill and became my roommate. We’ve become really close over the past two years, and she’s also my roommate when we travel. Both Morgan and Lauren have been such good friends to me, and I know I can count on either of them for anything.
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