Gracie Osbron Lives Her JuCo Dream

by Caroline Lane
(Caroline Lane is a mass communication major and a 2020 graduate of JSCC. She played softball with the Jackson State Green Jays and will continue her softball and collegiate careers in West Virginia.)

Gracie Osbron did not always see herself playing at a junior college. However, now she would not have it any other way.

When Osbron was 15 she committed to play softball at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, one of the most elite and successful softball programs in history. “I had always dreamt of going to play Division I softball,” she said.

However, after spending a year in Knoxville, Osbron started to have doubts about what she truly wanted. After this past fall semester, she transferred to Jackson State Community College.

“After the Super Regional against Florida is when it really hit me…I was way too happy to be done with the season,” Osbron said.

Tennessee softball lost the series in the final game two to one. Osbron was not regretful at the end of the season because she had performed well on the field. According to the National College Athletic Association, as a pure freshman, Osbron started in 37 out of the 44 games she played. Her batting average was .202 and she had a .969 fielding percentage.

Even with these numbers, something still did not sit right with Osbron. “I would not get out of bed, go to class, hang with friends, and my grades started to slip.” Osbron said. After taking some time and talking to people she trusted, she made up her mind that it was time to leave. Osbron entered the transfer portal. So, what made her pick a junior college?

Before her first year in Knoxville, Osbron suffered a gruesome leg injury. It gave her problems throughout the season. Since being at Jackson State she feels like she gets more time to recover. “I feel so much better physically and mentally on the field,” Osbron said. Getting more time to recover has given her the chance to heal in all aspects of her life.

One of the main reasons Osbron decided to transfer to a smaller school was because she felt like she already had the “big school” experience. Spending time with her family, friends and having time for herself are just a few of the things Osbron gets to enjoy more since moving to Jackson. “I have really seen a change in myself. I feel 100 times better and happier with myself. The growth I have seen from myself in such a short period of time is amazing,” Osbron said. It was not on the field, but when she was eating in her apartment with her friends, that it really hit her how happy she was with her new life.

Being a Division 1 transfer can bring a lot of talk in the softball community. When word got around about Gracie Osbron transferring to a junior college, many people thought it was because she got in trouble in Knoxville. That was not the case, though. She felt that Jackson was her best option.

“People are always going to talk, but I knew I had to put my head down and focus on this season,” Osbron said. If you ask Jackson State softball head coach, Taylor Moore, that is exactly what Osbron did. “Gracie is a relentless player with lots of passion for the game,” Moore said. Osbron came out hot for Jackson and helped the team out tremendously. Coming from a DI school, “she brought a tempo, leadership and attitude that was needed this season to give us that edge,” Moore said. Before the season was cut short, the National Junior College Athletic Association showed Osbron hitting .400, and she was second in the nation with six triples.

Relationships are a major priority to Osbron, so the connection she has with her teammates is extremely important to her. Since playing for Jackson, Osbron has quickly developed a strong relationship with her team. “The biggest difference for me has been that I felt more trusted on the field by my coach and teammates,” Osbron said. While she said she loved her teammates in Knoxville, she felt an instant connection with every player at Jackson and never felt like the “new kid” or left out.

Lights, cameras, sold-out crowds, and autographs are something every young athlete dreams about. While only some get to live out that dream, others may find joy in something a little less flashy. Dreams come in different shapes and sizes. Gracie Osbron’s came in the form of a junior college while falling back in love with the game of softball.

Osbron gets ready to take third base in the Green Jays’ home opener against Cleveland State

With the season being taken away by the coronavirus, Osbron has decided to come back and play at Jackson State for one more year. “Division I all the way to a junior college. It does not matter. We all have the same love, passion and desire for the game, and I can say that from experience. At the end of the day it does not matter as long as you love what you are doing,” Osbron said.

NJCAA cancels spring athletics competitions

According to a message from NJCAA president and CEO Dr. Christopher Park, all upcoming basketball championships and spring competitions have been canceled beginning immediately.

The decision was made following the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The move is an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Park stated that the NJCAA had “exhausted all possible avenues” to postpone competitions but the need to cancel had become eminent.

Park went on to say that no student-athlete in spring sports at a member institution would be charged a year of participation and would remain eligible for next year. The NJCAA Eligibility Committee will meet Thursday, March 19 to review the possibility of expanding letters of intent for 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Jackson State Names Michael Winders as Head Baseball Coach

Jackson State’s own Michael Winders has been named as the new head baseball coach of the Green Jays for the 2019-2020 season. Winders, a former Jackson State baseball team member, served as the baseball team catching coach from 2005-2008, and has been the head softball coach since 2008, adding women’s basketball coach to his resume from 2011 to 2016.

Winders has won over 200 games in his career and set the single-season wins record in 2016 at 41 wins. As catching coach in 2005, he notably worked with Luis Martinez, who would later be drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2007.

“We are very excited that Coach Winders will be leading our baseball program,” says Jackson State athletic director Steve Cornelison. “He excelled as a player and as our softball coach, and he will bring the same level of intensity and dedication in his new role.”

Winders graduated from Hamilton High School in 2000 after winning the Mississippi 1A state Championships in 1997 and 1999. He began his collegiate playing career from 2001 to 2002 at Jackson State and was selected to the All TCCAA Team his first year. Winders later played baseball at Lambuth University from 2003 to 2004. He currently lives in Jackson with his wife and two sons.

Cornelison says the search for a new head softball coach will begin immediately.

Green Jays Head Baseball Coach to Leave Jackson State

Jackson State’s athletic department announced this week that head baseball coach, Tyson Malik, will be leaving the college ahead of next season to pursue a career opportunity near his hometown of Orlando, Florida. Malik served as head coach for the last seven seasons and as an assistant coach for four seasons before that.

“Coach Malik has done a great job with our baseball program and while we hate to lose him, we are excited for what the future holds for him and his family,” said Jackson State athletic director Steve Cornelison. “Regardless of where he is, Tyson will always be a part of the Green Jays family.”

During his tenure at Jackson State, Malik had a career record of 224-146 (.605 winning percentage). He coached 67 players who signed with four-year colleges and universities to continue their college careers, including 2013 alum Wes Parsons, who made his major league debut as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves in 2018. During his final season with Jackson State, Malik led the Green Jays to a 33-22 record and a runner-up finish in the NJCAA Region VII tournament.

“I have been very fortunate to work with a great staff in this department and have made some lifelong friends in my years here,” said Malik, who expressed gratitude for his colleagues and the players he coached, crediting them for the evolution of his career. “It is hard to put into words how much this place and the people I have met mean to me. I wish Jackson State the best of luck in the future.”

Four Green Jays earn Academic All-American honor

Four Jackson State student-athletes have earned the Academic All-American honors by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) for their outstanding work in the classroom. The following Jackson State Green Jays were named third-team awards:

  • Gracie Emerson – softball team – 3.68 GPA
  • Jacob Langham – baseball team – 3.75 GPA
  • Macy Muirhead – softball team – 3.73 GPA
  • Marissa Turrentine – softball team – 3.75 GPA

Congratulations to all! Go Green Jays!

Fuller, TCCAA Hall of Fame inductee, honored on home court

Paula Fuller, who played basketball at Jackson State from 1979 to 1981 and later coached the Lady Generals, was elected to the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

Fuller was honored at a ceremony in the Jackson State Gymnasium on Feb. 23. The event was between the women’s and men’s basketball games.

“It was a total surprise,” Fuller said of learning about her election to the hall of fame. “It’s an awesome honor. You play ball all your life that you’re able to, and you do it because you have a love of the game. But you don’t think about your accomplishments, and being noticed for your play; it’s a tremendous honor.”

Fuller led the Lady Generals to a national third-place finish in 1981. She went on to Memphis State University and helped the Lady Tigers reach the Sweet 16 in the 1982 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. In 1983, Fuller and the Lady Tigers finished runner-up in the National Women’s Invitational Tournament.

As a player, she said she enjoyed traveling and experiencing different cultures. She also enjoyed the camaraderie with her teammates.

“The experience was extremely valuable, and the relationships that were established were ones that were lifelong,” she said.

After her playing days, she eventually returned to Jackson State and coached the Lady Generals. It was a different experience being on the other side of the ball she said, and she enjoyed coaching the players and watching as they matured into college student-athletes.

“Helping them understand what it means to be a team and seeing them exemplify the same attitude on and off the court was always rewarding,” she said.

JSCC Athletics Takes Flight

Jackson State Community College revealed its new athletic identity as the Green Jays Tuesday, August 21, 2018, in an event open to the employees and the community. The newly refinished gym floor was revealed to spectators eagerly awaiting the new identity.

“From the very beginning we’ve been the Generals,” said Steve Cornelison, Director of Athletics and Student Activities. “At the time this mascot embodied our fighting spirit and continued with us as we built the institution and our athletic program from the ground up.”

The campus chose to move forward with a new athletic identity while reflecting on the past. The idea was to have something unique that would set Jackson State apart. Responses to the reveal were overwhelmingly positive, with many stunned at the transformation from the Generals. Jim Swope, former athletic director for Jackson State, joked that he has come around to the idea since first hearing about the transition. “No, I think it’s good, and it will look good out in the community.”

Jackson State’s athletes are very excited to be the first Green Jays on the court and field this fall. “I think we might be the only Green Jays in the country,” said Garrett Guymon, a sophomore player on the baseball team. “I thinks it’s unique, and I think it’ll be really good.”

To view the official JSCC athletic identity video, visit www.jscc.edu/reveal.

Underhill Named SSAC Pitcher of the Week

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After a sensational performance on the mound last Friday, Martin Methodist Baseball pitcher Logan Underhill has been named the Southern States Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced Monday afternoon.

Underhill, a sophomore right hander from McMinnville, Tennessee, turned in a career-best performance as the RedHawks claimed a win over No. 18 Middle Georgia State last Friday at the East Campus.

Underhill struck out 12 and allowed just one unearned run in 8.2 innings of work. The sophomore finished one out shy of a complete game shutout, but was lifted in the ninth after a baserunner reached via error and later came around to score against reliever Zach Rowe.

JSCC Generals Score Big in the Classroom

The Jackson State Community College baseball team had a very successful 2013-2014 season by winning over 70 percent of the games on their schedule. Supporting this season were a number of exemplary players. Among those on the team were five standouts that were also recognized for outstanding performance in the classroom.

Each year the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) recognizes Athletes of Distinction who have excelled in their studies off the field. This recognition is given to players who have completed 45 semester hours. Players are recognized at three levels by three corresponding GPA requirements:

  • Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence (4.00)
  • Superior Academic Achievement (3.80-3.99)
  • Exemplary Academic Achievement (3.60-3.79)

This year’s honorees at JSCC include:

  • Benjamin Sanderson (4.0) – Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence
  • Taylor Walker (4.0) – Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence
  • Trevor McGee (3.81) – Superior Academic Achievement
  • Zachary Tompkins (3.74) – Exemplary Academic Achievement
  • Joshua Tubbs (3.63) – Exemplary Academic Achievement

This information along with statistics for the rest of the team are available at the NJCAA website http://njcaa.org/athletes_of_distinction_academic_all_americans.cfm?menu=26&yr=10&collegeid=1347.

Three Athletes Honored for Academic Achievement

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has released their annual list of ‘Athletes of Distinction’, a list of student athletes that have performed at a high level academically over their careers. Academic awards are divided into three categories based on GPA. Pinnacle Award for Excellence is for those achieving a GPA of 4.0. The Award for Superior Academic Achievement is given to those who attain a GPA of 3.80 3.99 and the Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement is given to those who have a GPA of 3.60 3.79. In order for a student to be awarded they must achieve the minimum GPA and have completed 60 credit hours of college work.

Jackson State Community College is pleased to announce three honorees; Taylor Douglas, a Camden native and graduate of Camden Central high, has received the NJCAA Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence. The award is only given to those that achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA. Douglas played outfield and pitched for the Generals.

Toni (Michaela) Thompson, a Scotts Hill graduate, has received the NJCAA Award for Superior Academic Achievement. This award is given to those that achieve a minimum GPA of 3.80. Thompson played basketball for the Lady Generals.

Jesse Messick, a graduate of Oakland High School in Murfreesboro, TN has been awarded the NJCAA Award for Exemplary Academic Service. Students must achieve a minimum GPA of 3.60 to receive this honor. Messick was a catcher for the JSCC Generals the past 2 seasons.

Each honoree is listed in the official release which can be found on the NJCAA website.
http://www.njcaa.org/athletes_of_distinction_academic_all_americans.cfm?ltr=m&yr=9&collegeid=0