This story was written in May, 2011...
You may not know who Jenna Bradley is. But you should, because she just might be the best athlete on Murray State's campus this spring.
The senior centerfielder for the Racer softball team possesses an astonishing combination of speed and power. Think Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.
Bradley is hitting .350 and slugging .870. She leads the Ohio Valley Conference in home runs with 17 and she has stolen 17 bases in 18 attempts. Her home run total puts her in the top-10 in the nation. She also leads the OVC in runs scored, total bases, slugging percentage, and runs batted in. On top of all that she has an impressive .943 fielding percentage.
“Jenna is an incredible player,” head coach Jay Pyron said. “But from the beginning she's also been a coach's dream. She's a leader on the field and one of the hardest workers we have. If you look to see who's sweeping out the dugouts after a game you'll probably see Jenna holding a broom.
“There's no question in my mind that she's best player in the conference. I don't know if she'll win OVC Player of the Year though. She'd probably have a better chance if we were higher up in the standings.”
Bradley came to Murray State from tiny Trilla, Ill.
We have a soda machine and that's about it,” she said. “There might be 200 people who live there. But I went to school in Mattoon which is about the size of Murray.
“Both of my sisters played sports so I've been going to softball and basketball games for as long as I can remember. I started out as a catcher when I was a kid. My cousin Megan Glosser also plays here and I remember her throwing the ball over the backstop once when I was catching.”
Bradley played at Mattoon High School for head coach Dave McDowell.
“He was a military man so he was very loud and demanding,” she recalled. “But he was a good coach. He knew a lot about the game. He taught me to have fun. Whatever we did, in practice or games we always had fun.
“One time I wore cheer shorts to practice and he never let me hear the end of it. I never cheered or anything. I just borrowed them from a friend. But he really enjoyed teasing me about it.”
Bradley helped lead the Green Wave to a 110-21 record over a four year period. She was a three-time all-conference and all-region selection despite playing a different position every year.
“My freshman year I played the outfield; my sophomore year I caught; my junior year I played second base; and my senior year I played centerfield,” she said with a laugh. “I did just about everything except pitch. It was fun though because I didn't get stuck doing just one thing. I liked it.”
Following her career at Mattoon, Bradley went on to play at Lake Land Community College.
“Lake Land was a good fit for me,” she said. “It was right there in Mattoon and I still had a lot of growing up to do. So I was still close to home and it worked out really well for me.”
Bradley hit .441 as a sophomore at Lake Land as the Lakers posted a 46-9 record. She was a two-time all-conference and all-region selection. And she was a second team All-Midwest honoree as a sophomore.
While at Lake Land she played for head coach Denny Throneburg.
“He knows more about the game than just about anyone,” Bradley said. “He was really demanding but he taught me a lot. He taught me how to apply geometry to playing the outfield. We talked a lot about degrees and angles.”
Following her career at Lake Land she considered signing with Illinois State and Tennessee-Martin as well as Murray State.
“Three of the girls who played at Lake Land with me had already committed to MSU,” she recalled. “So that was a major factor in choosing Murray State. Coach Pyron was very personable and very easy to talk to. And then the campus was great.
"It was hard to come to a place that had never had a softball team though. There was no history to go on and I just wasn't quite sure what to expect.”
Bradley hit .245 and smacked 12 home runs in her first year as a Racer as MSU finished 22-29 overall, 11-11 in the OVC, and qualified for the conference tournament.
“It took a while for us to figure out how to play together,” she noted. “We started to figure it out midway through the season and we did pretty well for a first year program.”
This season the Racers are 20-24 overall and 11-14 in conference play.
"I had really high standards for us coming into this season,” Bradley said. “I expected us to win a lot of games and be competitive with the rest of the teams in the conference. Now we've let a few games slip away but we've been in almost every game.
“And I think we're coming together at the right time. Our hitters have really stepped up. Everyone in the lineup is getting hits. And our pitchers have started to figure it out.”
Bradley is majoring in organizational communication and wants to be a flight attendant after she graduates.
“I've always like to travel and flying is so much fun to me,” she said. “And I like to meet new people and do new things.”