Blount Press Row

Female Athlete of the Year

Geary lit the fuse as Heritage blew up the district

Heritage’s Jazmine Geary, the 2016-17 Barley’s/Blount Press Row Female Athlete of the Year, took the Lady Mountaineers on a ride this spring we won’t soon forget. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

The nickname itself is a winner, all by its lonesome: “Jazz.”

You should see her band.

The most impressive thing about any champion athlete is the effect they have on their team.

In that regard, few athletes in any sport last school year had as big an impact as Heritage ace Jazmine Geary, the 2016-17 Barley’s/Blount Press Row Female Athlete of the Year.

Down the stretch, she just tore it up.

“She’s a big-game pitcher,” Heritage coach Jeff Sherman said. “She’s driven. She wants to win. She wants to compete. She wants to be on the big stage.”

The Lady Mountaineers celebrate the school’s first district softball championship in 10 years after defeating Maryville, 6-3, in the 4AAA title game this spring.

As with most great uprisings, it all launched for Geary and Heritage behind a hurtful, midseason loss — two of them, actually.

William Blount’s Lady Governors, the regular-season District 4AAA champions, rolled big, 9-1, in front of a home, in-school crowd in early April. Two days prior, fellow district rival Farragut had dealt the Lady Mountaineers a matching, 9-1 trouncing, and it burned.

“We felt like we were a better team than that,” Sherman said.

West caught the backlash, 17-zip, one game later. One day later, Heritage visited Maryville, and Geary was no longer a sophomore, at least not in the way she played.

The Lady Mountaineer cleanup hitter, she bashed the game’s only double en route to a run scored and a couple of runs batted in. Heritage as a team caught fire right along with her, with KaeLee Franklin (3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored), Courtney Deck (2-for-4 with a run and an RBI) and Hailey Berglof (2-for-2 with an RBI) leading the barrage.

Like Geary, each was sophomore.

In the pitching circle, Geary limited the Lady Rebels to four runs on six hits, striking out four, as Heritage left with a 6-4 win.

The win changed the Lady Mountaineers. It capped a regular-season sweep of the Lady Rebels. Three weeks later, the rest of the district found out just how big of a change it had been.

For the season, Geary delivered some sterling numbers. A take-notice season included a .311 batting average and team bests for RBI (41) and doubles (12), tying Berglof for the team lead with three home runs.

The All-State selection finished 4-of-5 in stolen base attempts on a team that could really run. Deck (15-of-16) and Gracie Burns (a perfect 13-of-13) both have big-time motors.

Geary, who patrolled the outfield when older sister, Ashleigh, was in the pitching circle, posted a perfect 1.000 fielding her position. Think about that for a second: 37 games, zero errors.

“She (Geary) could throw the ball from the fence to the plate like it’s nothing,” Sherman said. “She’s got a cannon.”

In the pitching circle, Geary posted a modest 11-7 record, but it was when she won that made all the difference.

“I felt confident because (the Lady Mountaineers) had confidence in me,” she said. “We just kept each other up. We gave each other pep talks before every game.”

Now, about that closing burst.

William Blount’s Lady Governors were unbeaten in the district entering the second meeting with the Lady Mountaineers, one game away from a perfect season in league play. This time, Geary was up for the challenge, holding William Blount to three runs over six innings with four strikeouts in a 4-3 win. Ashleigh had the save.

Jazmine admitted to being a nervous wreck the day before.

“It was hard to go to sleep that night I was so excited,” she said. “I think that set the tone for the rest of the year.”

Proving it no fluke, the Lady Mountaineers upended the regular-season champs again in the district tournament opener, 6-3. Finishing 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, Geary went 6 2/3s for the win.

“’The message was, ‘Stay alive,’” Sherman said. “‘Win that first one. There are going to be mistakes. Just overcome it. Stay dialed in.’”

Geary delivered arguably her best outing of the season in a district tournament semifinal rematch with the Lady Admirals: eight innings pitched, eight strikeouts.

Final score: Heritage 2, Farragut 1.

So close to its first district title in 10 years, could Heritage get by Maryville one more time in the finals and close it out?

You betcha.

“We said, ‘We’ve come this far; might as well go all the way,’” Geary said.

Geary yielded two runs through five innings, striking out five. The bats – with Geary going 2-for-3 – were hot early, the Lady Mountaineers finishing things, 6-3.

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