TERRE HAUTE —
When discussing how valuable Jazmine Allen is to Terre Haute North’s softball team, plenty of numbers can be used as examples.
Entering Wednesday night’s game at Terre Haute South, the sophomore center fielder was hitting .569 — one of the top averages in the Wabash Valley — with two home runs, 20 runs scored, 13 runs batted in, six doubles, two triples and 10 stolen bases in 2012.
Last season, Allen burst onto the high school softball scene with nine homers and a .375 average.
But the number that matters most to her is the one that appears on the back of her North uniform — 8.
Please allow Allen to explain.
“I started out in softball [at age 7 in Montezuma] with my mom because she pushed me to do it … and I hated it at first,” she recalled with a smile.
“But she made me do it because she liked it. I hated it sooo much, but she made me go out every day in the backyard to play catch and hit. I wanted to be hanging out with my friends or doing anything else but softball.”
Now Allen loves the sport and it’s because of her mother, Candace Schultz.
But when North clashed with its archrivals Wednesday, nobody could see Schultz sitting in the crowded South bleachers — except maybe for Allen in her mind.
You see, Schultz died Sept. 17, 2004, from injuries suffered in an auto accident. She was 27.
Allen was 8.
“When I was 8 years old, she died and I had to move in with my grandma,” she recalled. “Ever since then, I’ve just played for my mom because I knew she liked softball. I want to make it far for her. I know she believes in me and I want to show her I can do it.”
Allen didn’t always live with her grandmother, Beth Hyde, after Schultz died. She also spent time with her aunt (Schultz’s sister and also one of Hyde’s daughters) — April Dunbar.
But Dunbar — a cancer survivor, according to her Tribune-Star obituary — died Aug. 21, 2011, from injuries sustained in an auto accident in Douglas County, Ill.
“She plays hard for them,” North coach Jack Kirchner said, referring to Allen’s mother and aunt.
Now the talented athlete is back living with Hyde, who also takes care of Dunbar’s two surviving children.
“Jazmine’s the oldest of my granddaughters and she’s really had to step up and help out, with the family members we’ve lost,” Hyde mentioned before Wednesday’s showdown. “She still has focused on her softball. She loves it and she’d like to play in college. She stays strong.”
At 16, Allen already has dealt with more tragedies than many adults much older than her. But she’s determined to let softball be a positive influence in her life.
In other words, she doesn’t need to be told to practice and play the sport anymore.
“My mom’s the reason I want to go big, because I know she loved it and I want to make her happy,” Allen stressed. “I want her to look down on me and just be proud.”
Allen has dreamed of playing college softball since she was in seventh grade, admitting she wants to compete for the University of Florida in three years.
Kirchner insists that Allen possesses the natural skills, smarts and work ethic to go far in college.
“If she works hard at it and stays with it, she’s definitely a Division I softball player,” he said over the weekend. “She’s got all the tools. I think everyone [in the college ranks] knows about her. But she doesn’t let that go to her head. She’s very good at knowing where she’s at and where she needs to be. That can get in someone’s head, but she’s very modest about it. She keeps wanting to work.
“In a nutshell, she needs to get a little more discipline at the plate because even though she’s hitting well, sometimes she cheats herself by swinging at bad pitches. She does it just because she’s anxious, especially on a first strike, instead of waiting on a pitch that she can drive. Other than that, I don’t see a whole lot of weaknesses. She’s got good speed, a strong arm, knows the game, very smart on the bases, runs the bases well and she’s a great kid… She just has to understand that she’s got the ability. It’s a matter of how hard she wants to push herself.”
Allen and Kirchner acknowledged that her strong desire to succeed can be perceived by outside observers as a negative attitude.
“Sometimes my attitude gets the best of me, but I’ve been working on it,” Allen said. “And sometimes I like to pop it up, but I’ve been working on that and I’ve just been hitting line drives.”
“She needs to understand that a good hitter fails six out of 10 times, that hitting .400 is really good,” Kirchner pointed out. “She thinks that every time she gets up, she should get a hit. We like that, but like she says, she gets down on herself a little bit when she doesn’t get a hit, especially when it’s a key situation, which normally that’s when she’s at her best.”
Before Wednesday, Allen had been on a tear in helping the Patriots improve their records to 14-3 overall and 4-0 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC). In defeating two MIC opponents Saturday at North, she went 2 for 5 with a double against Ben Davis and 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs against Indianapolis North Central.
“At the first of the season, it was kinda rough,” she assessed. “But now we’re getting into it and we’re starting to play like a team. Everything’s finally coming together and I think we can go really far in the state tournament.”
Before the Class 4A state tournament arrives, North will complete its part of the annual Big Four Classic, which concludes Saturday at Northview. Wednesday’s matchup with South is factored in and West Vigo also will be involved.
Allen did not hesitate to offer a prediction for Saturday.
“I plan on us playing at the end [for the championship] in the Big Four,” she emphasized.