There were a number of issues that in all reality should have prevented JoBi Heath from enjoying a productive final season with the Central Oklahoma softball team.
First were the injuries, ranging from a balky back to a bad shoulder to a painful hip. Add to that a daunting class schedule as a nursing major that caused Heath to miss significant practice time every week.
But nothing slowed the senior slugger or dimmed her passion for the sport.
Heath started strong and never let up in putting together one of the best individual seasons in program history, capped by her selection earlier this week as a first-team All-American by both the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and the Conference Commissioner’s Association.
“I just knew it was my last year and I had to leave everything on the field,” Heath said. “I just went out there and played. Winning was the goal, that was the only thing that mattered, and I wanted to do everything I could to help this team.”
She did that and more in leading the Bronchos to a 48-8 record, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association regular season and tournament titles and a spot in the sweet 16 of the national tournament.
Heath batted .407 with a single-season school-record 24 doubles while also smashing 15 home runs and driving in 77 runs. She had three hitting streaks of 11-plus games, came up with clutch hit after clutch hit and also played near-flawless defense at third base.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a player at UCO who had the season that JoBi did,” head coach Cody White said. “She was just phenomenal for us all year, both offensively and defensively. And to do what she did with all she was going through was really even more amazing.”
Leading the list of obstacles were the injuries that would have probably put most players on the sideline. A torn labrum in both her right hip and right shoulder along with a bad back made every-day play a real challenge.
“I’ve always had some injuries, but this was the worst I’ve ever been,” Heath admitted. “It was painful all year and I just fought through it. This team was different and they all helped me. Everybody was pushing each other to be the best they could be and I wanted to be a part of that.”
The injuries didn’t keep Heath off the field, but a nursing practicum schedule that required her to work long hours at area hospitals several times a week often did.
“I usually missed two or three practices a week,” said Heath, who will graduate in December. “It was all about staying active on the days I could, getting reps on the field or in the batting cage any time I could.
“Coach White trusted me to get done what I needed to get done. He knew I would get the work in. I’m not sure many coaches would allow that and I really appreciate him for it.”
A product of Edmond Santa Fe High School, Heath started every game (231) that UCO played during her sensational career. She played left field her first two years before moving to third base as a junior.
Heath ended up setting school career records for doubles (70) and RBI (226), with both those numbers ranking in the top 25 in Division II history. She’s also in the UCO’s all-time top 10 in homers (second with 43), at bats (fourth with 752), runs (fifth with 168), hits (fifth with 274) and average (ninth at .364).
“I never really thought about going anywhere else,” Heath said. “I always wanted to be at UCO and I’ve loved every minute. This year was just unbelievable.”
Unbelievable. That pretty much sums up the season – and career – of JoBi Heath.