By Alan Dale
When it comes to having a purpose on a softball diamond, Jessica Mullins is as focused as they come.
The Barbers Hill senior-to-be is the unquestioned leader in the circle for a Lady Eagles team stocked full of pitching talent and a squad that is a perennial state contender.
Mullins, as is her summer ritual, has once again taken out to the road, traveling the club softball circuit and in her opinion this year’s is the best one she’s ever had “in my entire life.”
For now, she has enjoyed the journey across the states playing with the Texas Bombers 18U Gold based out of New Braunfels.
The Bombers just finished up the USA Elite World Fastpitch National Championship in Melbourne, Florida, finishing second, and currently are in Aurora, Colorado for the Colorado Fireworks tournament.
She’s played so much softball in a number of different states she can barely count how many days she’s been home in Mont Belvieu this summer.
“At the beginning of the summer the only tournament that was really close was the Scrapyard one (in Houston),” Mullins said. “I was basically working from home, so that wasn’t a really big tournament where I had to stay in a hotel like where I am now in Colorado.”
Next on her list is another national tournament in California.
All the while, she has been the team’s ace.
“I’ve been the main pitcher, so I have been doing a lot of work,” Mullins said.
Her game really began to click in a tournament in Conroe at the onset of her busy schedule.
“I just zoned in,” Mullins said. “I had the mentality that these are all girls who are 19-and-under, freshmen in college and I had to get after it. I carried that mindset the rest of this summer.”
The work is also against top caliber competition that has seen her go against teams that are stocked full of college talent. Sometimes, the girls will play multiple games in a day for a series of days.
It is a whole other world compared to the two games a week format of Texas high school softball.
She’s also enjoying her best days on the field under these demanding conditions. Of course, having sewn up her collegiate choice with a commitment to Texas State beginning in the fall of 2020 doesn’t hurt.
“It’s not really about motivation, it’s that I am more relaxed, and I am having fun,” Mullins said. “Now that I am committed, I don’t have to worry about what college coaches are watching me, sending emails about where I am going to be at what time. I am having more fun being around my teammates.”
According to Scott Smith, the Bombers head coach, he has watched Mullins advance her game in impressive fashion.
“Jessica has had incredible growth this summer and it has shown in her ability to get high level hitters out at a very high rate,” Smith said. “The quality of hitters that she is getting to play against are helping create a whole new year for her.
“When she faced the USA junior national made up of the best 19-year-olds in the world, many of whom just finished playing in the NCAA College World Series and dominated them I knew she had a chance to be special.”
Mullins was satisfied with her year at Barbers Hill last spring and believes her swan song will be even better with the Lady Eagles.
“I am going to be more prepared than I was in any of the other previous years, that’s for sure,” Mullins said. “In my mind I think I can always improve, and I can always do better. I am not going to be perfect as a pitcher. Even if I do pitch the perfect game I know I can always be, ‘I need to work on this pitch,’ or ‘this pitch didn’t get enough break.’ Little tweaks like that.”
Mullins believes she has gotten her changeup much more ‘on’ than it has been while being able to vary speeds more effectively.
“I am more consistent than I was,” Mullins said. “I can put a rise ball in the outer corner if I wanted to or I can throw a screwball to a right-handed batter. I am more precise.”
Hopefully she can take her lessons learned into her final season at Barbers Hill, where hopes of winning a state title have eluded her the past two years, including this year’s defeat to eventual Class 5A state champions Angleton in the Region 3 final.
“I cannot express that I really, really want that state championship,” Mullins said. “Everyone on my team is going to want it as well. We want that ring. We’re going to be as good this year and I am excited to get back to work and do better than we did last year.”
Before the summer ends, Mullins will play in Arlington and Austin, Texas and then off to California before school starts in August.
“I have 15 days of summer once I get back from California,” Mullins said. “That’s not bad at all.”