There’s strength — or perhaps more accurately in Jada Askew’s case, power — and then there’s strength in the face of adversity.
Injuries, personal turmoil and isolation wreaked all the havoc they possibly could during Askew’s first two years at Central Alabama Community College. It would have been perfectly understandable for her to limp through her first full season playing softball for the Trojans.
Despite having been in a walking boot just one year prior, she did not.
Askew posted a dazzling .432 on-base percentage in 2021. Her 22 home runs look like a typo upon first glance at CACC’s player statistics page— no other Trojan hit more than six.
For her efforts, she was named a first-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. It marked her in a more official capacity as one of the most feared bats across the country at the community or junior college level.
Askew’s 2021 season is one of triumph and the ability to overcome tremendous obstacles, and although she’s moving on to Birmingham Southern to continue her athletic and academic career, she left an obvious mark on CACC’s program.
“I think she may have been the lynchpin of the whole thing,” CACC assistant coach Steve Lewis said. “Right there in the middle of the order, always smiling. Always positive when things weren’t going positive.”
Askew transferred into CACC from Columbus State in January 2020 prior to her first collegiate softball season.
Having sustained a lower-body injury, she was in a walking boot and missed much of the first part of the Trojans’ season.
She finally got back on the field for five games. Then she got sick and had to sit out.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the season was canceled.
“I just had to work hard,” Askew said.
Making a dormitory of her local batting cages, Askew set to work on developing her skills as a hitter, knowing she was behind in terms of development due to her injury. Her father spent many hours pitching to her.
When he wasn’t available, she’d hit walnuts in her backyard to get her practice in. The smaller projectile helped develop her ability to make contact.
She’ll still hit buckets full of the tough green seed pods to train at home.
“After that, my swing just started naturally coming back to me, like it was in high school,” Askew said. “I just had to work hard.”
Two main weaknesses stood out for the slugger prior to the season with CACC: inside pitches and plate discipline.
Lewis addressed the first concern with an adjustment to her stance, moving her left foot back an inch or so to see the ball better, and a drill that worked the inside part of the plate.
“It was just about getting both eyes on the pitch a little bit earlier,” Lewis said. “Opening her stance up just slightly. It’s really not our way to, fundamentally, just throw the baby out with the bathwater and start over. Especially somebody that’s hitting in the middle of the lineup, they’re there for a reason and what they’ve done all their life is working for them.”
The second concern was an issue of mentality.
As Askew began lofting softballs over outfield fences, pitchers began avoiding her bat entirely. She had problems staying too aggressive, chasing pitches outside the strike zone early on.
She also struggled with runners in scoring position, her RBI totals lacking.
Askew turned it around and received 31 free passes over the course of the season, second on CACC’s team. Her final RBI tally was 76, which led the Trojans.
It was a matter of clearing her head. Bigger things than softball were on her mind.
“We went through a rough time as a team in general, but then personally, I had stuff going on that I was letting affect me in softball,” Askew said. “Once I started to let all that go, I just had a clear mind in the game and I started doing well.”
During the season, Askew’s grandmother caught coronavirus and had to be hospitalized. She was put on a ventilator, then caught pneumonia.
The stress of possibly losing a family member weighed heavily on the Trojans’ young star. Her family couldn’t visit as local hospitals worked to stop the spread of the pandemic.
“We didn’t get to see her or anything, and she got pretty, pretty bad,” Askew said. “I’m a firm believer in God, and we prayed and prayed. She started to slowly get better.”
Still, as with her injury a year earlier or the isolation experienced during the 2020 offseason, Askew put her head down and went to work.
Her bat, combined with those of her teammates, helped the Trojans reach the NJCAA College World Series after a 43-win season.
Askew’s grandmother made a full recovery. She even made it out to a game.
“(Askew) did a great job in everything we asked her to do, and it showed up in her production numbers,” CACC softball head coach Greg Shivers said. “She would get cold for a little while, but then she would heat right back up.”
Askew accounted for 39 percent of CACC’s home run production in 2021. She chose Birmingham Southern as her next destination due to the small-town feel of the D-III.
It’s safe to say she’ll be able to handle any adversity that comes with the move.