Softball pitcher heads to deep south
She didn’t win the lotto, but last week 17-year old softball pitching standout Heather Shove was still having a hard time believing her recent good fortune.
“I’m still on cloud nine,” Shove said last Friday, a day after signing a letter-of-intent to attend Jackson State University on a full-ride softball scholarship. “My dream has always been to be a college athlete, to play softball in college.”
So it’s fair to say the scholarship, the first ever awarded to a Truckee softball player, is a small jackpot in and of itself.
The signing of it culminated what was a storybook week for one of Tahoe Truckee High School’s premiere female athletes.
Shove sparked her teams’ come back in the nail-biting first game of a doubleheader sweep of the rival Fernley Vaqueros only five days before agreeing to a one-year scholarship at Jackson State.
Then, just minutes after signing her letter of intent, Shove walked out her front door to find a 2001 Dodge Neon that her dad had stealthily sneaked into their driveway.
Together the car and the scholarship represented the fulfillment of a dream for Shove and a promise made years ago by her father, Rich Shove.
“She has worked real hard for this and shown a lot of dedication, and I told her if she could get a full-ride scholarship, I’d buy her a car,” Rick said.
Over the long run, Shove may get more mileage out of her scholarship, which will cover virtually all of her expenses in college
“It includes room and board, tuition, meals, books, medical and dental. All I have to pay for is $10 a year for a P.O. box. I think I can afford that,” Shove said with a laugh.
Her recent giddiness aside, Shove said inking the deal last Thursday was a welcome relief from months of wrestling with the decision over where to go to college.
She was also offered softball scholarships at Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne and from a school in Tenessese.
Shove even considered staying at home and attending University of Nevada, Reno, which is starting a softball program next year.
But a dose of wanderlust and a promising outlook for the Tigers’ softball program lead Shove to the Deep South.
“I really like the way [Head Coach] Jack Lott runs the program and where he is planning on taking it. E He is trying to turn the program into one that is nationally ranked,” Shove said.
And Lott and the Lady Tigers seem to be well on their way with a 24-2 record in Southwestern Athletic Conference play and a 27-13 record overall.
But in order to attend a program on the rise, Shove will have to leave the comforts of home, friends and familiarity for the humid weather and flat topography of the south.
An even greater challenge may lie in adapting to day-to-day life at Jackson State, a historically black college located in Jackson, Miss.
But Shove said she has embraced the changes that the future will surely bring, and is looking forward to a change of scenery after spending most of her life in Truckee.
“I want to experience a new environment E and I actually prefer pitching in the humidity and the heat,” she said. “[Going to a mostly Black school] is something that I want to try, especially being from Truckee where you don’t have much diversity.”
Despite the challenges that most college freshman face, Shove’s coaches and advisors think her easy-going attitude and a strong work ethic will help smooth the transition to Jackson State.
“She is a very competitive person. She is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed,” said Tahoe Truckee High School Athletic Director Bob Schaffer. “She doesn’t need anybody critiquing her, she is pretty hard on herself.”
Shove also sought out the advice of the Wolverines’ Head Baseball Coach Jason Estabrook, a Truckee High School graduate who played baseball at nearby University of Alabama and coached at a small school in Mississippi.
“I just told her that once you get through the first year, it’s pretty fun,” Estabrook said. “The first year can be tough, not knowing what the coach wants, being homesick, but once you establish yourself, it’s a great experience.”
Despite the recent attention on her future, Shove was quick to point out on Friday that the Lady Wolverines, currently in second in the NIAA 3A with a 5-2 record, have unfinished business this spring.
“The two [league] games we have lost this year, we were ahead before making mistakes late in the game. So I really feel we have a good chance at [the state tournament ] this year,” she said. “If we play our ‘A’ game, I think we are the team to beat.”
So with her near future cemented with last Thursday’s signing, Shove will zero in on reaching the post season and possibly more, something that has eluded her for much of her four years in volleyball, basketball and softball at Tahoe Truckee High School.
“This is my last chance here,” she said with the confident smile of someone looking to strike it rich in the post season.