March 27, 2011
By Jon Cooper
There’s nothing wrong with having an open mind when it comes to improving a facet of your game.
Jessica Sinclair has learned that and she and the Yellow Jackets have benefitted.
Not known as a power hitter, the junior is fifth on the team, having blasted eight home runs through 33 games and 54 at-bats (including Sunday’s doubleheader sweep of NC State).
Her next homer will match her single-season best, set last season in 52 games and 153 at-bats, and she is only three away from tying her entire collegiate career for round-trippers, covering 106 games and 253 ABs.
“I’ve always been a big girl,” said the junior outfielder from Marietta, who is seeing a majority of her time in right field. “I think it comes with experience, knowing, learning my swing better, working with the coaches and getting my swing more natural.
“I’m not forcing it, I’m not trying to hit home runs,” she added. “So when they do happen it’s just because my swing is on. So I think it just comes with learning your swing better and coming in and doing extra reps and being more experienced at the plate.”
That experience has helped her raise her average to .315. She was hitting .198 for her college career coming into her junior season. Sinclair also credits a willingness to take feedback from coaches and make adjustments based on that feedback.
“I went and talked to the coaches about what I needed to be working on and I got in the cage and you just get some extra reps,” she said. “The little things that were your weaknesses, you make them your strong points. The more reps you can get the better you get and it shows on the field.”
Her teammates have noticed the commitment to improving her knowledge of the game.
“[She’s] just coming and asking more and more people for their input,” said senior Kristen Adkins. “I see her in the dugout, studying the charts on what the pitcher’s thrown her before. She’s just really become a student of the game and that’s paid big dividends so far and hopefully it will continue.”
Those dividends include Sinclair ranking fifth on the team with a .811 slugging percentage and she’s leading the team with a .714 average leading off an inning.
Having confidence in her game has been a major factor in her rejuvenation this season and her rehabilitation from a torn ACL, suffered last season.
“I’m coming off an injury, so I took it slow in the beginning,” she said. “It takes a little bit to get back into it. But just having the experience, knowing that you can do it, seeing as you’ve been successful in the past.”
“I think that she’s matured as a hitter,” said assistant coach Aileen Morales. “She’s had the opportunity to make adjustments within an at-bat and even her approach at the plate is better. She’s always had the abilities. I just think she’s worked a lot on her pre-game and her preparation and it’s paying off in the game.”
Morales feels that incentive for playing time has helped Sinclair stoke her competitive fire and raise her intensity level.
“She’s being pushed. In the past she hasn’t really had anybody out there pushing her,” she said. “Having Hayley Downs step in down there and have some really good at-bats and come in there and do well has also pushed Jess. Competition always makes you better.”
“She’s just really come back more hungry this year than in the past,” said Adkins. “Not to say that she wasn’t hungry to win and to hit because she was. But I think having to sit out during the summer, she felt like she was further behind. So I know she put in a lot of extra time, coming in doing extra reps, and just wanting it more.”