Jocelyn Briski’s freshman campaign was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 season.
She was well on her way to arguably one of the most impressive seasons for a first-year high school pitcher. But now a sophomore, she’s picked up where she left off more than a year ago and has helped Desert Vista start the year in a strong manner.
“I’ve been working hard in the offseason and it’s been a year since we last played,” Briski said. “I’ve gotten better, and my team has also gotten better. We’ve all really just put in the work collectively as a whole.”
Briski exploded onto the high school scene as a freshman, helping the Thunder go 9-4 through the 13 games they managed to play. During that stretch, she went 7-3 on the mound with a .87 ERA and 138 strikeouts. She gave up just 18 hits, one of them a home run. She also contributed a .412 batting average – the second highest on the team – with 5 RBI and a home run.
Desert Vista Softball coach Chris Crowl believes she would have been able to continue on her dominant path if it weren’t for the season being cut short. But the cancellation hasn’t caused her to skip a beat.
“She’s a competitor,” Crowl said. “She’s very strong mentally, she’s very strong with her approach to the game and we spend a lot of time with her on her pitch selection and how to attack batters. She’s been really receptive. That’s a credit to her and what she’s been working toward.”
Briski is 6-1 while on the mound this season. She has a .44 ERA, among the lowest in the state for pitchers who have pitched at least 40 innings and has given up just 3 earned runs. She also has already accounted for 120 total strikeouts. At the plate, she’s batting .462 with 10 RBI and 3 homers.
But perhaps her most impressive stat so far this season is her two no-hitters. One of those, in the first game of the season against Chandler, was a perfect game. Briski admits she didn’t know she was on the verge of the perfect game until it was completed.
As expected, her team mauled her after it was complete. Overall, it was her third career perfect game spanning to her days in youth softball.
“I couldn’t do this without my team,” Briski said. “The perfect game definitely took me by surprise. I was very happy.”
Part of what fuels Briski is her overall desire to play softball at the next level. Not only has she become a leader by example on the field, but she has also started to be more vocal with her teammates.
Desert Vista’s roster is made up of mostly underclassmen this season and no seniors. Last year, the Thunder had just one senior. But it was difficult for the younger players like Briski learn from them in a short amount of time.
Briski has become one of the sophomores to fill that void.
“The sophomores and juniors, we’ve all kind of had to take on that role of leading everybody,” Briski said. “I didn’t imagine I would have this type of impact early on but I’m glad the hard work is paying off.”
The entire dynamic surrounding the success of Desert Vista’s softball team this season has been impressive.
Not only is the team good defensively, but they often rattle opposing pitchers — even those who are among some of the best in the state. Briski went 3-3 with an RBI against a talented Corona del Sol defense in Desert Vista’s 3-0 win on April 1. A couple of weeks prior, the Thunder managed six runs against a Queen Creek team that figures to play deep into the postseason.
Alexa Wohr, another sophomore, has also played a key role for the Thunder at the plate this season. Along with Briski, Wohr has one of the highest batting averages this season at .409 along with 5 RBI and a home run. The two bring power to Desert Vista’s lineup, a characteristic Crowl said has also been key for the team’s success.
“They’re young and they bring their energy and their juice,” Crowl said. “We’ve been able to build the idea that this is a grind. They’ve put in the work outside of practice and games and it’s paid off so far.”
The spring rankings from the Arizona Interscholastic Association places Desert Vista at No. 8 overall as of Wednesday. Should it stand, the Thunder would be guaranteed at least one home playoff game.
However, there’s still plenty of games to be played.
The Thunder struggled against Desert Ridge out of Easter break and have the likes of fifth-ranked Sandra Day O’Connor, Mountain View, Chaparral and the Jaguars once more to finish out the season. Crowl and his team pride themselves on getting better one day at a time, and it’s that mentality he thinks will ultimately allow Desert Vista to navigate through the season and set itself up to be in a good position come the postseason.
“It’s a mindset,” Crowl said. “A lot of these younger kids may not be ready yet for what is to come at the end of April and May when you have to play your best. Our motto is to win the day. We spend a lot of time preparing them for the little situations and that’s been the focus right now.
“They’re really receiving it well.”