Jessie Harper is unyielding with her emotions much like she unleashes her power at the plate.
The Arizona slugger, who was 76 career home runs, 19 shy of the NCAA record, mentioned with glee yesterday during an interview with NCAA digital reporter Michella Chester that she wants to “be able to hoist the national championship trophy over my head with my teammates” in 2021.
Harper is one of the seniors this season who was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after spring-sport athletes had most of their season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“((in) 2021 I will be back with all of my teammates,” Harper said. “I’m so excited to wear the uniform again and step back on the field. I’m so thankful for this opportunity with the NCAA giving us an extra year of eligibility.
“I will be in an Arizona uniform again. I am so excited and thankful.”
When Chester asked Harper what it feels like to have a chance to break the home run record of Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain, who ended her career in 2015 with 95 home runs, Harper said records are “amazing and what people like to talk about with sports” but her goal is to bring Arizona its first national title in 14 years.
“My goal is to make it to the World Series, play the last game in an Arizona uniform on the Women’s College World Series field with my teammates,” she said. “We went last year and that was just the most amazing experience for me as a softball player.
“I want to get back to that and be able to hoist the national championship trophy over my head with my teammates. That would be super exciting but as far as records go, I’m trying to play my game and help my teammates to win any way possible. If a home run happens, it happens. I’m just happy it will be for the success of the team.”
Harper, a shortstop, and fellow senior Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, a center fielder, were selected first-team All-Americans by Softball America this week albeit in a 25-game season.
Harper led the Pac-12 for the second consecutive season with 10 home runs. She is also only 17 home runs shy of Arizona’s career record held by Katiyana Mauga, who is now a graduate assistant at Mississippi State.
Harper also led Arizona in batting average (.395) and RBIs (29). She became the team’s first triple-crown (batting average, home runs and RBIs) leader since Lovie Jung in 2003.
Palomino-Cardoza, who also has indicated she will return in 2021, hit .373 with seven home runs, seven doubles, and 26 RBIs. She went without an error in center field.
The interview with Chester also included interesting information about Harper’s new puppy the family adopted on its way to their California home, how she is passing the time during quarantine with her family, including sister MaKenna Harper, an ASU outfielder, her memories of her home runs against Team USA at Hillendbrand Stadium and her mental approach through her at-bats.
“I am confident. I am relaxed,” she said she says to herself. “And then I fill in the blank with whatever my plan is for that at-bat. … I try to always swing big and commit big so for whatever happens, I’m giving 100 percent and I’m committing all for it.”
“I try always to swing big and commit big, so whatever happens, I’m giving it 100%.”@jesss_harperr gives @michellachester the scoop on the Harper sibling rivalry, hitting home runs off Olympians and her at bat mentality.#NCAASoftball #UnitedAsOne | @ArizonaSoftball pic.twitter.com/mcvqzyzqa9
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) April 9, 2020
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.