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With Home Run Record In Sight, Jessie Harper Focuses On WCWS

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(Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jessie Harper’s stats speak for themselves. Entering the 2021 season, Harper leads all active NCAA players in home runs with 76 and total bases with 501, and is second in runs batted in with 206, which is one behind Florida Gator Kendyl Lindaman’s 207. In addition, she is only 19 home runs away from tying Oklahoma great Lauren Chamberlain’s career NCAA home run record of 95.

Learn more about Harper below.

Softball America: How does it feel to be within striking distance of the NCAA home run record?

Jessie Harper: Coming into college softball, I never really thought of myself as someone that was going to come in and break records or do anything crazy like that. I just came in wanting to start.

I, for sure, thought that that record (Lauren Chamberlain) set was amazing. I remember growing up watching her and I don’t think there was an at-bat that I saw that she didn’t hit a home run. For me personally, I got to watch Katiyana Mauga my freshman year and she was hitting home runs like crazy too, so I never really compared myself or looked at myself like either of those two players.

It just doesn’t really feel real. I’m out here trying to have the best time with my teammates and compete for a national championship. So yes, the record’s cool. Lauren Chamberlain and Katiyana Mauga, they really set a standard and really put softball on the map as far as the home run game goes, but I’m just here trying to make it to the World Series.

SA: How did it feel to hit two home runs off of Team USA last spring, with one coming off of Cat Osterman?

JH: That was an absolutely crazy game. I was so thankful that we got the opportunity to play Team USA. I grew up idolizing those girls. I had super big butterflies before the game, so I was so nervous going into that game and then I heard Cat was pitching and I was like, “What the heck? This is an unreal experience, probably an experience that I’ll never have again.”

SA: What is it like to play for Arizona?

JH: Growing up, I loved watching Arizona softball. I always knew during high school that I wanted to be a college coach one day, and I knew that Coach Candrea was the guy that was going to help me be the best player I can be and help me get to my next dream of being a college coach.

Coach (Candrea) is absolutely amazing. He creates such a family culture here and he really does incorporate our alumnae.

SA: What was it like to finally make it to OKC in 2019 and break the nine-year drought?

JH: Oh my gosh, it was such an amazing experience. I am such a big softball fan, so I have grown up watching the World Series even when I was playing here and our team didn’t make it to the World Series. I went right home and I watched all the games. I’m just such a big fan of softball, so finally being able to have Arizona go back to the World Series was just an amazing experience.

SA: What is it like to have your sister play for Arizona State?

JH: I think that’s what’s so great about my family is that I have my sister to go through the softball journey with. We played with each other in high school. I was kind of always a little bit of a mentor towards her for softball. Being able to be on the biggest stage we could be in college softball and both be competing against each other, I am so proud of her and think she’s amazing. It’s such a cool experience, so I’m looking forward to this year, sharing the field with her again—definitely want to do everything we can to beat those Sun Devils.

SA: What are your plans after your collegiate career ends?

JH: So, what I’m doing is getting my master’s. It’s a two-year program. I’m going to play this year. Next year, I’ll go into the grad assistant role while finishing my master’s degree. Then I’ll play pro over the summer after this year, at least I hope to. I would love to be a part of Athletes Unlimited. That looks like the coolest thing ever. But definitely I want to play pro and stay within softball for as long as I can. After I finish my grad assistant year here at Arizona, I definitely want to look for a coaching job.

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