Janae Jefferson Felt Right At Home With WPF's Texas Smoke
At this point in time, there is an argument to be made for an official Janae Jefferson day in Austin, Texas. After having five historic years wearing burnt orange at the University of Texas, where she became only the second player in program history to be a four-time All-American, Jefferson can now add another accomplishment to her list of accolades: Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF) champion.
On Aug. 13, while jumping for joy with the rest of her teammates, Jefferson and the Texas Smoke became the inaugural WPF champions. The Smoke, owners of the best record in the league, defeated the USSSA Pride in a best-of-three series, 5-4 and 14-2.
“To bring this championship to Austin, it’s an amazing feeling especially for a female professional league and Austin,” said Jefferson.
It was a triumphant first season not only for the Smoke, but also for Jefferson. The Texas native led the league during the regular season in batting average (.438), hits (49) and OBP (.523). That was just the beginning, however. She also hit for a .500 average in the postseason, collecting nine hits and going 4-for-4 in game one of the championship series. When it was all said and done, she was named both the WPF Player of the Year and the Championship Series MVP.
“I’m just happy to be back in Austin,” said Jefferson. “When I first heard that this team was going to be based out of Austin, it was a no-brainer for me to go back to my second home.”
Jefferson’s love for Austin started at a young age, so when it came time to decide where to play college softball, there was no question that she wanted to wear the burnt orange at Texas. Plus, being a Texas native, the drive to Austin was only three hours from home for Jefferson.
And it turned out to be a match made in heaven. The four-time All-American left Texas as the program leader in batting average (.424), runs scored (222), hits (362) and doubles (55). She became just the second player in program history to earn All-American honors four times.
But Jefferson truly saved her best for last with the Longhorns. In her senior season, she had 92 hits, 24 doubles, scored 74 runs, drove in 34 and walked 31 times.
“(During) my last year, I wanted to make sure that it was a year to remember, not only for me, but for our fans, for my parents,” Jefferson added.
It was indeed a memorable year for Texas fans everywhere in 2022. The Longhorns made it to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2013. And Jefferson, usually not your typical choice for the long ball, went deep four times during the postseason.
“I think my power really exploded in the postseason just because I was willing to put the team on my back to make sure that we all experienced the World Series,” said Jefferson.
In total, Jefferson has played well over 100 softball games in Austin. But for her, the number that is most important is the amount of kids she's made happy during that time.
“It’s really just knowing and making sure that I’m doing a great job to influence kids,” she said. “Truly, kids don’t know if you went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, they’re just happy to see you out there. They’re just happy to be in your presence.”