College softball: East Chicago grad Jessica Pabey shining for CCSJ in junior campaign
By Anthony Nasella Post-Tribune correspondent April 21, 2013 10:44PM
Updated: May 23, 2013 6:41AM
Even though Calumet College head softball coach Stephanie Zimny wasn’t coaching the Crimson Wave program during Jessica Pabey’s freshman year, Zimny knew what kind of player she had the moment she observed the East Chicago Central graduate’s work ethic and talent.
And as Pabey now competes in her senior season, where her .494 average at the start of the month led the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Zimny said she has seen the emergence of a bona fide Division I player who is not just leading by example alone.
“I think in a nutshell, she’s just an absolute fantastic player,” Zimny said. “She’s smooth, and she definitely has finesse about her play. She’s a competitor and she’s strictly business when she’s on the field. I love that. She’s a Division I athlete and she’s taking on a more verbal role this season.
“I don’t think she was challenged enough in high school to reach her full potential, but I have had the honor of coaching her since her sophomore year. Mentally, she has grown tremendously. She’s taken on the leadership role among the three seniors that are on the team.”
Pabey made a strong first impression as a freshman when she was named CCAC honorable mention. She’s been all-conference the past two seasons in leading the Crimson Wave in home runs, as well as on the field as the defensive catalyst and stabilizer.
“I think whatever success I’ve achieved has a lot to do with my workouts and definitely from the coaching I’ve received,” Pabey said “And I also have competition with my teammates all the time; it’s friendly competition, but it also challenges us.”
Pabey said she enjoys a two-fold relationship with her teammates.
“Coach has high expectations for her players and she pushes us to do our very best — yet she never gives you more than you can handle,” Pabey said. “But as much as she is a coach, she’s also a friend. If I need to talk about something not softball related, I can go her. She’s always there to encourage you as well coach and challenge you.
“As a team, we just mesh so well; this team is different than the teams of the previous two seasons. Everybody hangs out with everybody. When we’re on the field, we’re one big, happy family. I know my second baseman is going to be there no matter what is going on. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we have each other’s back out there. They’re family away from family.”
With Pabey as one of the undeniable leaders, and yet more at ease in her approach due to being around other solid players as compared to her high school days, Zimny believes this team has the potential of not only being of the best teams in conference, but also able to qualify for the NAIA nationals in Alabama.
“We are 10 times better talent wise than what we were last year, and Jessica’s growth has played a big part in that,” Zimny said. “Her ideal athlete is Derek Jeter and she’s always ready on the field. Her momentum has her always ready to make the play and it’s that type of A game approach that, as a team, will take us to the next level if we just keep at it.”