It's our last matchup of the weekend and it features electric running back Jahvid Best taking on amazing softballer Jolene Henderson. Best handily took out Mike Silver and Jolene beat Wesley Walker in the initial rounds of the Pete Newell Region. We'll take a closer look at both of them and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!
Best seems to always have one mode: Fast. He ran fast. He cut fast. He caught fast. He leapt fast. He even interviewed fast. He's the prototypical Internet-generation athlete!
He was a one man instrument of warfare, like that sniper in Saving Private Ryan. In a blink of an eye, he took teams out of games. We can count the games, the names, the teams he left burning on the turf in his wake. CSU '08. Wazzu '08. Furd '08. Washington '08. Miami '08. Maryland '09. Minnesota '09. UCLA '09. Opposing fans probably felt a little helpless once the Jet found the seams and broke loose--it was hardly a fair fight once Xs and Os crumbled into the 100 m dash.
I don't think I've ever seen a football player take over a football game by himself the way Jahvid did with the liabilities he had to nurse from everyone. He was hampered with a generally weak offensive line (especially in the interior) and a terribly hamstrung quarterback situation. Even Desean had a fairly accurate Longshore throwing to him much of his career. Best had to win many games on his own (and when I say on his own, he generated around 70 to 80% of their meaningful offense, sometimes even more). The only Bear who had to burden that much of the load in modern times was probably Deltha, and those teams still stunk. One player can't make a team great; it's to Jahvid's credit that he kept the offense running alright with minimal help (Ta'ufo'ou, Mack and Malele in '08, and mmmaybe Summers-Gavin in '09).
Probably, within the context of softball, Jolene's workload is less insane looking. But from someone raised in the era of strict MLB pitch counts and constant horrific pitching injuries, I have always had trouble comprehending how it is possible for Jolene Henderson to pitch as much as she pitches.
Freshman: 192.2 innings
Sophomore: 333.1 innings
Junior: 282.1 innings
Senior: 286.2 innings (despite an injury that kept her out a few weeks.)
The softball season lasts about 4 months. Jolene was throwing significantly more innings over 4 months than most major league starting pitchers would throw over 6 months. In 2011, with Valerie Arioto injured and out for the season, and as a result Jolene pitched 87 percent of the available innings.
OK, so we've established that she has an indestructible rubber arm. But just being able to throw a ton of pitches doesn't mean much if they aren't good pitches.
They were the best pitches. During that insane sophomore season Jo finished with an ERA of .99 despite carrying the burden of pitching nearly every competitive inning available. And her workload didn't come back to haunt her in the playoffs (when she, of course, pitched every inning). She just kept right on dominating all the way to the softball World Series.
I've always wondered if the reason that Jolene can throw so many innings without any obvious impacts to her effectiveness is because of her best pitch: the change-up. I haven't seen a ton of Cal softball games, and yet I still feel like I've watched batters swing over the top of way out in front of her change-up more times than I can count. Maybe the arm action (and not having to constantly throw as hard as you can) on a change-up allows her to stay fresh. Maybe I'm just fishing for plausible explanations for the unexplainable. Either way, her change-up sits right up there with Rob Nenn's slider and anything Yu Darvish as my favorite pitches to watch.
She departs Cal as perhaps the best pitcher since the legendary Michelle Granger (who, looking at the record books, compiled even more insane numbers.) A mid-season injury this year likely prevented her from attacking some of the more hallowed career pitching records that Granger still holds. It's a shame that her injury prevented her from dominating this year like she did earlier, but it does nothing to diminish her resume as a Bear.
And the most important part of her resume? Without Jolene, Cal doesn't achieve two College World Series appearances and one Pac-12 title.
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