WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County head softball coach Angela Crawford, a former college-level pitcher, recognized the talent immediately.
“I knew it in seventh grade,” Crawford said of Lady Bears pitcher Jessica Burroughs.
Now a senior, Burroughs allowed just two hits in her entire middle school career.
“It was obvious she was an elite pitcher. I was the lucky one who was able to have her for four years,” Crawford said.
Crawford’s prognostication proved accurate. Burroughs won 79 career games in the circle for Houston County, a figure reduced because of an injury Burroughs suffered as a junior.
Fully healthy for her senior season, Burroughs led the Lady Bears to their sixth consecutive region championship and an appearance in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA state tournament. Burroughs finished the season 24-5 with an ERA of 0.87, striking out 272 batters in 185-2/3 innings. She also batted .444 with seven home runs and 45 RBI to be named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Softball Player of the Year.
While Crawford her star’s success coming, Burroughs wasn’t so sure. She dreamed of playing in college, but it wasn’t until she started pitching in national travel-ball tournaments that she realized it was a possibility.
“That really opened my eyes,” she said.
What she saw was a tremendous opportunity. Blessed with talent, all that was left was for Burroughs to embrace it. Of course, that’s easier said than done as a teenager. Between travel play and playing with Houston County, Burroughs played high-level softball non-stop from March through October. She missed out on much of what teen life has to offer.
“At first it was overwhelming,” she said. “As I grew up, it clicked into place.”
Burroughs says it was all worth it. She recently accepted a scholarship offer to play softball and continue her education at Florida State. She’ll report sometime next summer.
Crawford said that beyond her talent, Burroughs displays a winning attitude toward her teammates. That’s not always the case with top-tier performers, she noted.
“She could have been a bad teammate,” Crawford said. “She could have been a snot, but she never was.”
Burroughs still has travel ball obligations. She’s also involved with pitching instruction for younger children. She teaches technique, but also preaches the mental aspect of pitching.
“Confidence is the key,” she said. “It’s all about believing and knowing you can do it. It’s a stressful position, I’m not going to lie,” she added. “It’s not just skill, there’s a mental aspect.”