When Jessica Podskalny heard that UBC Okanagan was getting a collegiate softball team, she applied to the university almost right away.
She started playing the sport at the age of three, advanced through the tough leagues in White Rock, B.C., and has played the last two years with Douglas College, where she excelled as a starting pitcher in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC).
Staying close to home while still playing the sport she loved was important to her.
“It’s really exciting and really cool to start the foundation of this new program,” said Podskalny.
“I wanted to continue my softball career. At first I didn’t know where, but then this opportunity came up and it’s exciting. It’s going to be a big team and I think it will be really fun.”
It will be the first year that UBC Okanagan has entered a women’s softball team into the Western Collegiate Softball Association (WCSA). Players from the Okanagan and across the country will join the Heat squad when the season starts at the end of August. The program was culminated by the dedication of Okanagan softball enthusiasts and Heat head coach, Joni Frei.
Coach Frei has been involved in the game for years and has a long professional resume including head coach of Team BC at the North American Indigenous Games and Softball BC director of coaching.
She’s a coach that Podskalny has hoped that she would play for.
“Starting this program with (coach Frei) will be super cool,” said Podskalny.
“Her experience and reputation as a coach will have a high impact on our team. The team will have a lot of trust in her knowing that she’s had a lot of success.”
During her two seasons with the Douglas College Royals, Podskalny was one of the main leaders in wins and strike-outs in the NWAC and was named the north region pitcher of the year last season. Her experience and leadership will be an essential part of the building blocks for the Heat’s new program.
“We’re expecting good things form her,” said the Heat’s Darren Bennett.
“She has shown she has what it takes to be a dominant pitcher at the university level and we are very excited to have her on our roster for opening day.”
Podskalny said that she hopes to pick up the success where she left it last season and hopes to help meld this team into a close-knit group of teammates.
“The hardest thing for us this season will be getting to know each other, once we get those close connections it’ll be easier to connect and stick together during the tough moments of the game,” Podskalny said.
The WCSA season features six weeks of multi-game weekends. The Heat will be tested in their first action of the season on Aug. 30, when they host last year’s league champions, the Calgary Dinos.
Away from home and first year challenges aside, Podskalny is ready to retake the mound with Heat colours.
“I’m happy to be playing softball in the Okanagan.”
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