Jackson not ready to say goodbye|Super shortstop will play at Pitt next season

Published 8:59 pm Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sports Editor

WILLIAMSTON — Heather Jackson showed her athleticism by soaring high in the air after the final out was made in Williamston’s 4-2 win over Southside in the sectional championship game.
The Tiger senior shortstop then made a made dash to fellow senior Cassie Harrell, Williamston’s second baseman, to hug and celebrate the victory. They were soon joined by the rest of the team in a group hug.
“I was excited,” Jackson said. “It didn’t hit me at first that we were actually going to states. It was shocking and surprising.”
Jackson, who has provided key hits throughout the playoffs, made a couple of spectacular plays at short to rob the Seahawks of base hits.
The win propelled the Tigers into the state championships at Walnut Creek.
Jackson and the rest of the Tigers (18-7) will play Midway (20-6) for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A East Regional championship on Friday. The game will begin at 5 p.m.
The winner will face the survivor between two-time defending state champion East Surry (24-6) and perennial power Swain County (22-4) at 7:30 p.m., with the losers meeting in an elimination game at the same time.
A loser’s bracket final will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday. The championship game will be held at 1:30 p.m. If a second game is needed, it will be played at 4 p.m.
“I’m excited about it,” Jackson said. “I’m just going to try to play like it’s any other game.”
Williamston will be joined by Jamesville to form the Riverside Knights following consolidation. Knowing that this is it for the Tigers, Jackson couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s a great feeling,” Jackson said. “I think it’s an honor for us to go (to the state championships). The softball team hasn’t gone in a long time.
“Just knowing that this is the last Williamston High School softball team, I just hope we can go there and represent well.”
Jackson and the Tigers don’t know much about the competition, but that doesn’t bother the splendid shortstop.
“Sometimes you do better if you don’t really know anything,” Jackson said. “You just go out there and play.”
Though the East Surry Cardinals have won the past two state championships, and Swain County is a regular participant in the postseason, Jackson said the Tigers won’t be going in intimidated.
“We just look at it as a challenge,” Jackson said. “We feel like maybe we can go in and win it and take their spot this year.”
The Tigers, the second seed out of the Four Rivers Conference, had to upset top-seeded Southside, who had beaten Williamston both times during the regular season, in order to get into the Final Four. Williamston also knocked off Jamesville, the Tideland Conference champions, during the playoffs.
It seems the Tigers are peaking at the right time.
“All the girls get along,” Jackson said about the team’s ability to shine at the right time. “We all jell. If there’s anything going on outside of softball, we just put it away and focus on softball.
“During the playoffs, we’ve played the hardest that we’ve played all year. We really wanted to go to the state championships.”
Jackson has been a rock for the Tigers throughout here career. She is hitting .366, has scored a team-high 26 runs and knocked in 12.
She was named to the WDN All-Area Second Team following her junior season, after she hit. 316, had an on-base percentage of .443 and led the team with 26 runs scored. Jackson also went 4-1 with a 0.58 ERA on the mound.
Jackson received honorable mention in 2008, after being named to the First Team her freshman season when she hit .378 with 17 runs and 10 RBIs.
Along with those impressive stats, Jackson has been a leader for the Tigers.
“That’s something you can’t teach,” Williamston coach Damon Hayes said. “The accomplishments of what we’ve done is because of what (the seniors) have done leadership-wise.”
Win or lose, Jackson’s softball career will continue next season. She’ll be playing for the Pitt Community Bulldogs, who reached the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series this year. Jackson plans to be a special education elementary teacher after her softball career is finished.
While Jackson, an all-state shortstop, is excited to play for the Bulldogs, the senior said she’ll miss playing for the Tigers.
“It’s not going to be the same,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to be Williamston.”
She plans to make the most of her final games as a Williamston Tiger.
“I’m just going to play my heart out,” Jackson said.