As much as anything, third-year coach Alison Mitchell wants to see trusted team leaders develop in her top-notch Redmond High School softball program.
But she doesn’t mind one bit if one of them ends up being the team’s quick-witted smart aleck.
Recently at practice, Mitchell was out trying to hit ground balls to some of her players for fielding work – except she could only hit line drives. And the coach kept mumbling to herself to get it right.
A few minutes later, junior Jennifer Cummings – normally the team’s standout catcher – came running in from third base.
“She trots right by me, and tells me, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to get it together,'” Mitchell said.
Cummings, who has already given the University of Washington an oral commitment, has a lot on her plate for the undefeated Mustangs, who are the consensus Class 4A state favorites (and ranked No. 1 in Scorebook Live’s coaches poll).
First and foremost, Cummings is a pure hitter. Her .611 batting average leads a talent-loaded lineup, as do her 20 extra-base hits.
And she handles one of the premier two-way players in the state in senior Kiki Milloy, the daughter of former UW/NFL safety Lawyer Milloy who has signed with Tennessee.
For the first time this season, Cummings is calling Milloy’s pitch sequences, not Mitchell from the dugout. And it has worked out swimmingly – Milloy is 14-0 with a 1.48 earned-run average in 99 innings pitched (with 180 strikeouts).
Equally as important, Cummings is the steadying influence on the softball diamond.
“Her knowledge is just so solid,” said Mitchell, who is also a longtime club coach. “Now we are at the … part where I can nitpick the little things with her.”
Cummings comes from a family that enjoys watching and endlessly talking about baseball.
“My dad and brother are really into baseball, and go to the Mariners games,” Cummings said. “In fact, sometimes my dad has me keep score just to keep me involved (understanding baseball), especially if he thinks I am rusty.”
Her father, Jeff, taught her a hitting swing early in her youth that is still as reliable as ever.
“I am big (5-foot-10), but I am not a home run smasher, but I am not a bunter, either. I just know everything comes off base hits,” Cummings said. “And I can feel when I am off or on, and can self-diagnose it.”
Cummings came in as a ninth grader in 2017 and won the starting catching job for a Redmond team that ended up winning the Class 3A state title.
Last season, she was a thorn in the side of pitchers, hitting .653 with 21 extra-base hits as a sophomore.
The Huskies noticed, and offered Cummings a scholarship to be a utility player, not full-time catcher.
“Jen is an athlete,” Mitchell said. “If I had another kid I could put behind the plate that managed a game with Kiki really well … I would put (Cummings) at third. She has great hands. She moves well. She has a quick release.”
And now, Cummings and the Redmond crew are ready to tackle what is ahead in the postseason.
“Everyone at school comes up and says, ‘You are doing so well, you are undefeated,’ but I do not feel we have reached our potential,” Cummings said. “I am excited for some close, competitive games where you have to fight for it to win it.”