Newtown High School softball player Jess Gibbons believes there should be an asterisk next to her name in the record books. Even so, the senior slugger is — in fact — the school’s all-time hits leader. Gibbons broke a tie with 2010 graduate Kate Bowen, and did so with a bang, crushing her sixth homerun of the season in a 12-0 blanking of visiting New Fairfield on April 29.
The homer was the 112th hit of her high school career, and Gibbons added a single to add to the record. Batting.474 through the first 11 games of the campaign — which ranks second on the team only behind Dani Shine and her .500 average — the team’s No. 3 hitter in the order stands to continue to pile on the hits during the course of the 20-game regular season, not to mention conference and state playoff contests.
“She’s just solid and dependable. She gets up at bat and you feel pretty confident that she’s going to do something. I don’t think she feels the pressure,” Newtown Coach Tara Allegretto said.
Gibbons makes it clear the player she surpassed should be recognized, too. Bowen, after all, played one less season, sitting out her junior year with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Bowen is now playing at Manhattan College; the junior pitcher/infielder began this week’s action second on the team with a .345 batting average and leading the Jaspers in wins with nine and in earned run average with an impressive 3.62.
“She’s an incredible player and she’s still doing it in college now,” Gibbons said.
Of course, Gibbons is only a little more than halfway through her senior year. Who knows how many hits will mark the new standard when the season — and Gibbons’ high school career — is complete.
She was well aware that she set the record as she was rounding the bases, but the homer was a bonus. “I was just trying to get a hit,” she said.
Gibbons, through the first 11 contests, was tied with Dani Shine for the team lead with 18 hits, and had a team-leading 16 runs batted in. The Nighthawks started the year 9-3 and earned seven wins in their first eight South-West Conference games.
“It’s a ton of fun. I think we have a really close team this year,” Gibbons said.
Bob Guererra, who coached Gibbons in her first three years at NHS and is back helping out with the team while recovering from a medical issue that sidelined him at the start of the season, says Gibbons is the kind of player every coach looks for.
“She’s the ideal player to coach — first one here, last one to leave practice. Phenomenal work ethic almost to a point she doesn’t think she’s as good as she is,” Guererra said while setting up a pitching/hitting machine during practice at Treadwell Park this week.
While her bat does a lot of the talking, Gibbons’ play in the field shouldn’t be overlooked.
“She’s just a huge asset in center field, too,” Assistant Coach Lin Hertberg adds.