Softball senior Jenna Lenza having best year of her career in the batter’s box
Lenza is third in the GLIAC with a .478 batting average
GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Jenna Lenza (4) prepares to take a swing during the game vs. Lewis on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
A YouTube search for ‘Jenna Lenza softball’ brings up a 2011 high school recruitment video. It starts off with a high-school aged Lenza front and center.
“Hi, I’m Jenna Lenza,” she said in the video over the sound of ESPN theme music. “I attend (Victor J. Andrews) High School in Tinley Park, Illinois and I will be graduating in 2013. I hope you enjoy my video.”
Things have changed quite a bit since then.
“They always tell you to make a recruiting video,” Lenza said. “You send it out to all the coaches and try to get people to look at you. I taped that video and quite honestly I don’t know if I ever sent it out to anybody.”
Luckily for her, Lenza didn’t need to. Lenza is now in her senior season with the Grand Valley State softball team. She was recently named the GLIAC Hitter of the Week Monday, April 3, for performances against Lewis, Hillsdale and Wayne State the previous week, in which she batted .579 in six games.
Lenza is having her best season yet in a GVSU uniform. She is batting a team-high .478 this season, which ranks third among all hitters in the GLIAC. That average, which she has kept up through 28 games, is well above her season averages from any of the previous three years. In 2015 she batted .378, the second-highest mark of her career.
“Jenna’s been one of our top batters all four years,” said GVSU coach Dana Callihan. “We were expecting her to carry the load for us a little bit and she’s doing a great job of being very disciplined even though other teams might not be giving her the best pitches. She’s doing a great job.”
The two-time All-GLIAC First Team selection also leads the GLIAC in doubles (13), is second in on-base percentage (.538) and fifth in slugging percentage (.685). She is third in program history in career doubles (48), fifth in walks (75) and ninth in runs (134).
Lenza says her mechanics have led her to have the consistency at the plate every year she’s been with the program. The difference this year has been her emphasis on the mental approach to the game. Rather than stress about every at-bat and nitpick every performance, Lenza has learned to enjoy the moment, give every game her best and let the rest take care of itself.
The result has been the best year of her career.
“When you get to this level, the mental game is something that everybody needs to work on the most,” Lenza said. “It’s especially something I needed to work on the most. It’s not easy. It’s really difficult.”
One thing Lenza and the softball team have been doing is keeping journals. For the last two years, assistant coach and former player Jen Rivera—who was named GLIAC Player of the Year three years in a row from 2002-04—has had the players keep a journal that includes goals for each practice and each game, as well as personal goals.
Rivera keeps track of each player’s goals and gives feedback on what things they should focus on. Lenza said the journals have helped her prioritize her responsibilities and is a reason for her improvement on the diamond.
“That’s one of the things she’s told me I need to work on the most, is being mentally tough and trying to stay positive,” Lenza said. “It helps a lot.”
While she mastered the mental aspects of the game the last two years, she has always had a strong grasp on the physical aspects. Callihan recruited Lenza out of high school after seeing her ability there, as well as watching her play on her travel team, the New Lenox Lightning.
Callihan says Lenza’s talent was apparent early on.
“Jenna’s got tremendous instinct,” Callihan said. “She knows the game very well. She knows the situations and what they call for. I think her game-sense, court-sense some people call it, is a big attribute. That’s something you just can’t teach.”
With nine doubleheaders remaining on the schedule, Lenza has an opportunity to keep up her blazing pace and help the Lakers (13-15, 3-5 GLIAC) climb the conference standings. GVSU is currently ranked eighth in the GLIAC, tied with Ferris State and Lake Erie.
Lenza is taking the second half of the season very seriously, but not too seriously. She is enjoying her final ride in Laker blue.
No matter what happens this season or after GVSU, she’ll always remember the girl in the 2011 YouTube video—that’s where it all started.
“It’s funny to look at (the video),” Lenza said. “I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a player. It just shows me where I came from and how hard I’ve worked, how much I’ve changed and how much softball has meant to me and my family.
“It shows how much work everybody has put into it—like that silly video.”