Thursday, May 10, 2012

KSU Athletics Truly a Family Affair for Jessica Cross

You can count on one hand the number of Jessica Cross’s family members that have impacted Kennesaw State athletics.

Let’s begin with Jessica. The 2012 A-Sun Softball Player of the Year, Cross took the field at the A-Sun Championship on Thursday ranked sixth in the league with a .368 batting average, tied for sixth with nine home runs, fifth in slugging percentage (.607) and RBI (37) and fourth in hits (60). She is the second Owl to win the A-Sun Player of the Year Honor and was one of four unanimous picks to the 2012 First Team.

Starting at third base in game one against Jacksonville, the senior from Tunnel Hill, Ga., also provides KSU with
versatility and has played a pivotal role for the Owls in pitcher's circle this season. She sports an 8-8 record with an earned run average of just 2.84 in 21 pitching appearances.

Since first donning an Owls’ uniform in 2008, Cross has accumulated numerous honors, including three First-Team All-A-Sun honors, two A-Sun Pitcher of the Week and one Player of the Week honors, 2010 A-Sun All-Academic honors and 2008 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Southeast Region Second Team honors.

She has also impacted several team records for KSU. Cross ranks second on the program’s all-time Home Runs list, and is the Owls’ career leader at Division I level. She is in the top-10 on KSU’s all-time list in shutouts, strikeouts, wins, complete games, innings pitched and pitching appearances. Cross has recorded the most pitching appearances by an Owl at the Division I level, and is seventh on the Owls’ all-time list in walks and buns batted in and is the program’s D-I career leader in both.

Joining Cross on the Owls’ starting roster is her cousin, Jensen Hackett. Hackett, a junior, is one of only three Owls to start all 52 games this season and she has started every game in which she has played (149) since 2009 as an outfielder and infielder. This season she has started in all three outfield spots and entering the A-Sun Championship Hackett has reached base in eight of KSU’s last nine games.

Next is Cross’s brother, Colton, who is a freshman pitcher for KSU’s baseball team. Colton boasts a 4-1 W-L record, has recorded 34 strikeouts in 37.2 innings pitched and has an ERA of 5.26. He has started in four of his 16 appearances this season.

Jensen's older sister, Jordan, played Owls softball from 2008-10. On top of all that, Jessica's mother, Luann Cross (formerly Hackett), played Owls softball in 1988, when they were still a slow-pitch program. Amazingly, Luann's coach of the Owls is the same as the one that Jessica, Jensen and Jordan have in Scott Whitlock.

“I’m very honored to have won this award, and am very shocked and surprised that I’m being recognized like this,” commented Cross, who earns her fourth career All A-Sun nod. “It’s been great to be able to play a role in our team’s success this season, and getting able to share this with my teammates after being a part of this program for five years is the best part.”

Athletics, and particularly softball, is something that has permeated Jessica’s family life. Even when they are away from the field, she says that chances are at some point discussion is going to turn to sports, and in particular, softball.

“We are a really close family, so when we come together we talk softball or we talk other sports,” says Cross. “That is just how we grew up.”

While mother Luann began the legacy of the Hackett/Cross family at KSU, that fact didn’t play much into Jessica’s decision to play for the Owls. For Jessica, her official visit touring campus gave her the feeling of “being back home, as if I was in the back yard playing softball. Plus I loved the field and the facilities.”

Along with being at home with her teammates, Cross’ KSU “family” is truly one with which she feels the most comfortable, and has provided her an experience that she would never undo.

“It is pretty neat to have been able to share this experience of being at the same place and on the same team with actual family,” says Cross. “We played ball all of our lives together, so why not have a career together?

“There is something very comfortable and familiar about having them there. With Jensen and Jordan, it is really special to have someone you feel that close to, it is unlike something you get with any other teammate because they know you better than anyone. Being able to see them day in and day out, whether it is on the field or around campus somewhere, I know that really did help me get started.

“I can’t speak for Jensen, but I know for Colton he knew coming in how I loved the school, how I was always talking about it, and that it was somewhere and something of which I enjoyed being a part.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many people have gotten the opportunity to play somewhere they enjoyed and also have family members there as well for support. This is really special.”

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