Former Ola softball standout Jurie Joyner is going from great to greater. The slugger and catcher who helped Ola coach Gidget Gue claim the school’s first state softball championship in 2013 is now contributing majority to Pennsylvania’s Ivy League title hopes.
Last week, Joyner was garnered Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, thanks to a five game stretch where she hit .643 with nine RBIs, one of which accounted for her first collegiate home run.
Jurie’s season batting average of .422 is fourth best in the league and her RBI total of 11 puts her at sixth. We had the opportunity to talk with Jurie about her success as a freshman and the transition from high school to college softball.
SCBuzz: How did it feel for you to get that Rookie of the Week honor, and to just just have so much success early in your college career?
JOYNER: “It’s been pretty awesome. I really actually don’t like looking at stats or anything like that. Mostly my grandma and my aunt are the ones who keep track of all that and are really excited for me. Obviously it’s something I wasn’t expecting. When I came here, I just wanted to contribute to team a little bit and be a positive influence on the team and just be a good teammate. I’m really lucky that I was given a chance to play like this so early, and I’m trying to take advantage of this opportunity I’ve been given.”
SCBuzz: What have been some of the biggest differences between the high school and collegiate levels of softball?
JOYNER: “It’s been pretty different. Firstly, Georgia is the only state that plays high school softball in fall. So it’s been really weird not playing all year round like I’ve been used to. I mean, I think we had like three games in the fall and some stuff we would do on weekends. Workouts and weight lifting and that kind of thing. But also, I haven’t played a game yet where I didn’t have to wear my Under Armour stuff. It’s been a cold winter here.
“But pretty much, the biggest difference has been managing the extras that you have to really do for yourself. You’re on your own quite a bit. I mean, I see the team and we workout together and have specific times to get homework done and all that, but it’s really about finding the balance of going out to the tee and hitting by yourself and just a lot of things you have to do by yourself to get it done. As far as team goals, that has still been the same. Back at Ola we wanted to win a state championship, and now we want to win the Ivy (League) championship.”
SCBuzz: What’s been the most difficult part of the transition for you?
JOYNER: “Well actually the fall was really hard for me. It was a struggle just because everything is so much different in the north. It’s almost like a different country. You know, you go from being used to people holding the doors open for you and that kind of thing, and it’s not like that up here. It’s really a big culture change. You know, not having Chick Fil A anywhere, and I’ve had to learn how to make my own sweet tea in the microwave. Of course I haven’t had family and my really close friends real close to me, but it’s taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to do things on my own. It’s definitely different, but it’s doable. And school work has been a big change too. You know, you go from being a senior where it’s kind of like you just want to graduate, to coming here and everybody’s smart, and you kind of have to rebuild yourself. It can be a bit intimidating.”
SCBuzz: What types of things have been helpful for you in managing that transition?
“It’s definitely a good thing that I’ve had my team here, all the older girls are here to help guide me and tell me things like, don’t take 9 a.m. classes on Fridays and that kind of thing. It’s helpful to know that there are people who want the best for you and have gone down the same road as a student-athlete, because being a student-athlete at an Ivy League school is tough. But our seniors are awesome. And we also have a lot of resources. There are computers for athletes and a place to go where we can all study. And the athletic culture here is very close knit, and it was really important that I embraced that culture.
“In McDonough and in Georgia it was just such a small town and community, and everyone knows you and everyone else that’s been playing softball my whole life. Just everyone in the softball community knows each other. Coming up here, nobody knows you, so it’s like you have to really rebuild yourself and prove yourself, but I’m learning that everyone had to go through it. So I just have to remember who I am, remember to be humble and remember that this is something you’ve been doing your whole life, since I was eight years old.”
SCBuzz: Who’s been the toughest pitcher you’ve faced so far this season?
JOYNER: “I’d have to say our pitcher. We call her A.C., but her name is Alexis Borden. We face her at practice and she’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever had to catch for. The thing about her is that she wants to win this Ivy League championship so much, and you can see it. Other than that, it’s just kind of hard to say. You see so many great pitchers on this level. we just finished playing Yale, and their pitcher is pretty good, and she gave us a little bit of trouble because her ball had a natural rise to it. It was hard to make an adjustment.
“I think, though, that the level of play we faced in travel ball and at times in our Class 5A prepared me for what we see here. In travel ball it was a little more consistent talent, whereas in high school it was either hit or miss, meaning you had some teams that were really, really good, and then other teams that weren’t as good. I mean we faced people like Megan Betsa when she was at Union Grove, or even Savannah (McHellon) who was on our team (at Ola) and is now doing really good in Georgia, so it really just depends.”
SCBuzz: How do you want to see yourself get better as a player even before this season is over?
JOYNER: “Sometimes I play for expectations and I get down on myself a lot. So I think that being a freshman, I have a lot to learn from older players, and one of the things I want to do better at is keeping an even keel and learning how to mature. Even now by the end of the season, I’d like to mature and get to the place where if I make mistakes or if I don’t have a good at-bat, I’ll be able to get it over it. Some girls on our team make it look so easy. I want to be better at that and improve my mental game and be more steady.”
SCBuzz: Do you ever have time to check out some of your old teammates and see how they’re playing at their various schools?
JOYNER: “Oh yeah. I’m the biggest Georgia fan ever, so I love watching Savannah, and I have a couple of other girls I played travel ball with at Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and all these other great schools that you see them on TV, and I get just the biggest smile on my face and get so proud, like it makes me so happy to know that I played with those girls, or I know those girls. I get emotional just thinking about it, and I can’t be more proud of them, and I expect great things from all of them.”