HUDSON, Mass. -- What’s not to like about Jurnee Ware. She is intelligent, humble and, oh by the way, one of the elite pitchers in the state.
Ware’s success story at Hudson High School began as a young freshman and has grown by leaps and bounds ever since.
Now in her final season, the crafty lefty is looking to finish her high school career the way she started it, by winning another state championship.
The odds of that happening grow stronger with each passing victory. Following Monday's win over Shrewsbury High, the Hawks now stand at 12-0. And the way Ware has been dominating the opposition thus far, don’t bet against this team come June.
Ware already holds the school record with 761 strike outs. It is anyone’s guess as to what that final figure will be to once her season is completed. In her four years here, Ware has maintained a miniscule career ERA of 0.88. Steve Martin, Ware’s former head coach at Hudson, says he saw something special in her as a young freshman and wasted no time putting her on the varsity roster.
“Right away I found her attitude to be great,” said Martin, who stepped down from the position at the end of last season. “The bigger the game the more she stepped up. The higher the intensity level the better she became. You could see that in her right away as a freshman. One thing I have always admired about her is her mental toughness.”
In Ware’s first season back in 2010, she pitched the Hawks to the MIAA Division 2 state championship. The past two seasons, Hudson reached the postseason but failed to get out of the Central Mass. Tournament. Last year, Ware pitched the entire season with a bum shoulder.
“I never thought I would ever win a state championship when I first came here,” said Ware, who is 67-13 inside the circle for the Hawks. “I didn’t think I would break records or do as well as I am doing. I lacked some confidence when I first started here. But I continued to try and work that confidence up which I have done. But it has never got to a point of me being over-confident or being cocky because that doesn’t help anybody.”
After beating Stoneham to win the state crown, Ware said it took a little time before it sunk in. “To be honest it felt like any other game we won that year,” she said. “It didn’t hit me for a while.”
Ware has proven to be the consummate team player. She has never been one to yearn for the spotlight in spite of her talents. With her, the concept is always and always will be team first.
“I like being inside the circle for my team,” said Ware. “It’s nice having your teammates saying good job to you and you saying it back to them. It’s a great feeling.”
Watching Ware from afar this season, Martin says he has noticed some similarities in comparing Ware’s first season and her senior year.
“Jurnee always talks about the team and has always been a team player,” he said. “But as I see her now, I picture her mind-set this year is her wanting to get back to what she did her freshman year by returning to the state final and getting another chance to win a state championship.”
Ever since she could hold a softball in her hands, Ware aspired to become a pitcher. Under the guidance of her father Alvin, Ware constantly worked at her craft, accepting the constructive criticism that goes along with it which, in turn, made her more-focused and determined. Ware says the support she has received from her father, her mother Nikki and her three brothers (Jordan, Jared and J.D.) has been nothing short of beneficial in progressions as a softball player. She is also one of the Hawks’ best hitters, with a career batting average of .411.
Once her high school career is finished, Ware, a National Honor Society student, will take her talents to Assumption College next season.
First-year Hudson coach Mary Beth Ryan considers herself fortunate to inherit a team amassed with talent. The Hawks are not a one-girl show by any means and Ware would be the first to admit that. This team is solid both offensively and defensively. And when you have a pitcher like Ware mowing down the opposition, you have few, if any, flaws to be concerned about.
“It’s nice to inherit such a good team,” Ryan said. “All of these girls have been taught great fundamentals, beginning in the youth leagues here. That is the best part to me. In regards to Jurnee, I feel the best thing about her is giving us that sense of comfort in the field, especially with the number of rookies we have in our infield. When an opposing team gets a runner on these girls never worry about that runner scoring. We react like there is nobody on base because we believe Jurnee will come up with that big strike out or get a batter to pop out or hit a little ground ball that is easy to field.”
Despite her growing list of accomplishments, Ware realizes she is playing under a colossal shadow cast by the state’s No. 1 rated pitcher -- Milford High flamethrower Shannon Smith. While Smith has received her share of accolades -- and deservedly so -- Ware says it doesn’t bother her to play second fiddle. She prefers to just go about her business as the leader of the Hawks.
“I really don’t mind it because there are probably some other pitchers out there who are good that think that way of me, too” Ware said. “There might be some who say, ‘Well, if she wasn’t there pitching at Hudson maybe I’d get be getting a little more publicity.’ I’m just grateful for what I do get from the press.”
Hudson junior catcher Chelsey Scovil has caught Ware the past three seasons. Before that, the two had played together for a number of years within the Hudson youth softball leagues. Scovil says the relationship between her and her battery mate has been highly-productive.
“Our relationship has grown each year,” Scovil said. “I always seem to know what she is thinking before the next pitch. After we see a batter the second time through the line up we know what their weaknesses are at the plate. For us to both understand that makes it so much easier for the two of us. With Jurnee I never really have to worry about where the ball is going to be. Usually wherever I set my glove is pretty-much the exact position as to where she is going to throw it.”