Nobody expecting more from Sigrest than Sigrest
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Sarah Sigrest knows all about expectations and she’s not afraid to face them. She’s been dealing with them for a while now.

Last season, the JU softball team rode their star pitcher’s arm to the NCAA tournament and she was named Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year. Already this season she is the A-Sun preseason Pitcher of the Year and there are many expecting Sigrest to once again lead the Dolphins the tournament.

“It’s good because it shows I have the respect of the coaches and players but at the same time I have a target on my back because every other pitcher in the conference is thinking ‘I want to be Pitcher of the Year’,’’ she said. “It’s going to hard to repeat, but I’m ready for it.’’

Indeed it will be difficult to repeat last season’s 27-7 record, 1.10 earned run average, 208 strikeouts in 230 innings pitched and two shutouts.

With those kinds of numbers one could think Sigrest feels invincible. Not the case.

“It’s not just me, it is the team,’’ she said. “Last year, every time I threw a pitch I knew we were going to get an out. The team makes me feel like I can throw anything I want and never second-guess a pitch. I trust my defense.’’

“It’s (repeating the performance) going to be tough,’’ JU coach Ali Higgs said. “Obviously the target’s on her back, people are coming after her, everybody knows she’s the best pitcher in the conference. The numbers are hard to top.’’ Higgs is quick to add she has little question Sigrest is up to the challenge.

None of the accolades or pressure are lost on the senior from Daphne, Ala., in fact, she seems to appreciate much of the pressure. And make no mistake, this is far from a rest on your laurels season for her.

“I think I’m a little tougher on myself than anybody else is, ’Sigrest said. “I didn’t just go home and say ‘last year was good enough’ because I don’t think it was good enough. It’s my last year playing and I want to go out with a lot more than what we had last year.’’

There’s a reason for the mindset … she has a big-picture goal in mind.

“I want to leave a legacy,’’ she said. “I want to leave with people saying ‘I want to be as good as her’. I want to be somebody a freshman can look up to and say ‘hey, I want to smash her record’. I had that coming in. It’s a competitive thing and I’m setting the bar for other people coming in.’’

She also said she already can see her senior season is going to be emotional.

“Last year it was like ‘let’s go good’ and you always had time and this year you don’t have time,’’ she said. “Every day you get closer to being done so it seems like everything we do is more dramatic. Like every time we miss a ball I’m like ‘oh, no, we can’t miss a ball’. It’s dramatic and it’s emotional.’’

That she’s has such success hasn’t come as a surprise to those who have watched Sigrest grow over the years.

She took up the game with a pitching coach in third grade and threw a few games for the Daphne High School varsity as early as seventh grade. Not long after she thought she wanted to quit, but her mother, Cheryl, asked her to stick it out one more year then quit.

Sigrest stuck it out one more year, didn’t quit, and was a varsity star the remainder of her time with the Lady Trojans.

After coming to JU, Sigrest said she “lost her edge’’ her sophomore season when she had only six wins and she and then pitching coach Higgs, did some head-butting.

“I definitely had my immature moments where I had my mind on things other than softball,’’ Sigrest said. “I was in study hall a lot, in there getting in trouble a lot for not having the grades. It took me a while to figure out it’s not just about going out. That’s where my breakdown was my sophomore year. Physically there was nothing wrong with me but mentally I wasn’t where I needed to be.’’

“She is a handful, but not in a bad way,’’ Higgs said. “Sigrest and I have come a long way. She’ll be the first to tell you we’ve come a long way. Right now it’s easy. She’s a senior, she knows me, I know her, it’s not a teaching aspect for me, it’s a refining aspect and we go into every game thinking ‘ok, how can we trick them this time?’ But, there are no tricks because everybody knows what pitches she throws and when she throws them, now it’s like a card game and what we’re going to throw out there to win. It’s kind of fun. I think we both have fun with it.’’

- Jim Nasella