Jen Mineau: All-American Pitcher
Let’s set the scene. It was the last home game of the season for the Fordham Rams. They were taking on the 3rd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, the highest ranked softball team to ever visit Fordham. Fifth inning. Alabama was up 5-4. One out. Runner on 1st.
Now, here’s the play-by-play.
“The first pitch is over the inside corner, strike one. The next pitch is over the outside corner, strike two. The pitcher, Jen Mineau, is working both sides of the plate. It’s an 0-2 count, and the ball is hit over the middle, and it slams into Mineau. She’s in pain as the ball dribbles to second base. She’s shaking her right wrist, and that’s her throwing arm. She’s waving off her coach, telling her not to come out here, but now the medical staff is coming out.”
What happened in the game after that? They beat Alabama, 8-5. It’s the highest seeded team the Rams have ever beaten on the softball field. Freshman Taylor Pirone came on in relief of Mineau and shut down the Crimson Tide, allowing no runs and striking out three in two and two-thirds innings.
But what happened to the pitcher? Jen Mineau went to the hospital. Some people predicted that she had pitched her last game in a maroon uniform, but Mineau will start on Thursday for the Fordham Rams. She suffered a bruised right hand.
The team is in St. Louis to extend their season through the A 10 tournament. If they win that, they will head to the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid. No matter how Fordham fares, Jen Mineau has cemented her legacy at Fordham. The graduating senior holds career pitching records for the school in appearances, games started, complete games, wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, and shutouts.
“Record books, twenty years from now, I don’t see anybody passing what she’s done,” said Head Softball Coach Bridget Orchard. “It’d be great if somebody had, but realistically I see that sticking for a long time.”
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Mineau started playing softball when she was four years old.
“I was given the choice between playing soccer and playing softball,” she said. “I liked the softball uniforms better, so that’s what I went with. Plus, I don’t really like running all that much.”
She didn’t have any memorable inspirations on the softball or baseball field growing up. “There were a few girls who played in the rec-leagues, but I don’t remember their names,” Mineau said. “Softball has always been my own personal thing.”
Given all the accomplishments at Fordham, you would think Mineau was heavily recruited out of high school. That would be wrong. Despite putting up impressive numbers at Hoosic Valley Central School in Schaghticoke, NY, near Albany, she was recruited by only two schools: Fordham and Savannah College of Georgia.
“I was really awful in summer ball, so it’s not too big of a mystery really,” Mineau said. “Summer ball is generally where softball players get recruited, unlike football or basketball sometimes.”
Although the focus on recruiting for softball is in summer leagues, Coach Orchard found out about Mineau through high school competition. The father of one of her former players, Megan Waldron, is a coach in upstate Windsor, New York. Mineau pitched against his team.
“Her dad said ‘Hey we just faced this pitcher and she was lights out,’” said Orchard. “She struck everybody out.” At the time, Mineau was only a sophomore. Coach Orchard watched her play the next two summers.
The answer to the mystery why Mineau was only recruited by two teams was different for Kyle Jamieson. Jamieson, Fordham’s pitching coach, was a coach at nearby Syracuse at the time.
“You see it all the time, where kids play on a smaller team and get overlooked,” he said. “Then, they get their chance in college and make the most of it.”
Hoosic Valley is a small school. Mineau was the valedictorian in a graduating class of 108. The softball division was Class D, which is low.
“She was kind of hidden because it’s upstate New York,” Orchard added. “Everything seemed to fit together. Fordham being academic, she wanted to be near the city, she wanted to major in art, so everything clicked and she committed to us early in her senior year.”
Mineau didn’t even give Savannah College a chance. She loved Fordham so much after her visit that she committed and canceled her visit to Georgia.
Since then, Mineau has flourished on the field. “A lot of players blossom later and she probably didn’t reach her peak until, pretty much, her freshman year,” said Orchard. “In her freshman and sophomore year here, she got bigger and stronger, and she really worked hard.”
The hard work in the gym and with the trainer paid off. As a sophomore, Mineau was named an All-American and was one of the 10 finalists for USA softball player of the year. As a junior, she was named an ESPN pre-season All-America, first team member, and selected to the USA softball national collegiate player of the year watch list.
Ricky Cibrano, broadcaster for WFUV and fellow graduating senior, has done the play-by-play for multiple games that Mineau has started.
“I would call her a straight power pitcher,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily differentiate her from other pitchers, but she does it better than the rest of them because she can blow absolutely blow you away with her fastball if she wants. She has the off-speed pitch she can go to. She has excellent control as well. So I would look at her as a power pitcher, but she has the full repertoire.”
With that kind of stuff on the mound, there is no wonder why she has thrown 10 no hitters, including five perfect games, while wearing the Fordham maroon. For Mineau, the feeling afterwards is euphoric, but it’s mental torture during the game.
“It’s simultaneously the best and worst experiences a pitcher can have because the entire time, you’re in your own head,” Mineau said. “You try not to tell yourself ‘Don’t screw up,’ but you totally are.”
After these four years, the pitcher out of Schaghticoke, NY is more than Coach Orchard could have ever hoped for.
“We didn’t imagine we’d have a first team All-American as a sophomore,” said Orchard. “I did think we had something special early on when she came in as a freshman and she had a lot of movement on her ball and she threw the ball hard. A lot of swings and misses and she struck people out from the day she stepped on campus in the Fall. I knew she was going to be good, but by no means did I think she was going to be the best in the country.”
Off the field, Mineau is a visual arts major. At Fordham, Mineau says she “eats, sleeps, and breathes softball,” but when she’s not playing, her hobbies are ones SpongeBob’s friend Patrick Star would likely enjoy.
“I like to sleep as much as possible,” Mineau said. “I spend a lot of time on Netflix. I enjoy a good video game. Basically a lot of things that don’t require me exercising.”
After she graduates, Mineau will play pro ball. The Akron Racers selected her with the 15th overall pick of the National Pro Fastpitch (or NPF) draft.
“Mineau has a great arm and a knack for getting batters out,” said Racers President/GM Joey Arrietta in a press release. “Pitching comes at a premium in the NPF and we need solid arms the Racers can lean on when times get tough. Mineau chips away at the corners, which tends to catch batters leaning away or pulling back.”
After one season, Mineau said she’ll look for a coaching job and head to graduate school. She says she hopes that will start her on the path to her goal: to become a high school art teacher while coaching their softball team.
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The Rams will try to claim an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year when they start A 10 tournament play on Thursday. The Rams claimed the second seed after recording a 14-6 conference record, so they receive a 1st round bye.
“It gives us an extra day to regroup,” Mineau said. “We could watch the other teams kick the crap out of each other.”
Jen Mineau will have the ball against the winner of Temple and Saint Joseph’s at 4:30 on Thursday.
Special thanks to John DeMarzo for conducting the interview with Coach Jamieson.