NEWTOWN – Some athletes find pressure unnerving. Others thrive the greater the intensity. Though only a freshman, Council Rock North’s Jenna Khantzian certainly falls among those who love being in the spotlight.
Going into this season, Jenna and her senior pitching mate Amanda Camp looked to be a duel mound threat for the Lady Indians softball team. The duo offered first-year coach John Engelhardt a blend of talent, youthful zeal and veteran savvy as the Rock hoped to improve on last year’s 10-4 Suburban One League (SOL) National Division record.
The advanced expectations did not bother Jenna. Her very reason for taking a spot in the circle was the challenge. “I was a catcher and one day, I wanted to try something new so I started pitching and found out I wasn’t bad. I got more and more into it. I kind of like the pressure when it’s on me. Personally, it makes me confident. I really like the feeling of being in control, being able to throw what I want to throw.”
Jenna has definitely had ample opportunity to test her ability to handle the pressure. Halfway through the season, Amanda Camp suffered whiplash in a car accident, dropping her off the active roster.
All the pitching assignments fell on the more than capable arm of the freshman ace. “I definitely felt the pressure when Amanda got in the car accident. It was in a very rough time. We had so many games last week and this week also. It was a lot to pitch most of those games. I did get a little tired but knew I had to push through.”
Jenna responded beautifully, leading the Indians to a 7-0 start to the 2016 campaign. Her success stemmed from an unusual mound presence and an effective arsenal of pitches.
“I have six pitches, a fastball, change-up, curve, drop, rise and screwball. I have quite a few that help me in different situations. My best pitch is definitely my riser. I have a lot of confidence in that pitch. Right now, I have a pitch for every spot – high, low, inside and outside.”
Jenna had all her good stuff working in the Indians’ recent 7-0 victory over North Penn, a win that left the Rock tied with Neshaminy atop the National Division. Jenna knew that the North Penn game was important not only for league standing but for personal reasons.
“I thought it was especially important because I wanted to try and do it for Amanda. She was telling me how tough it was for her not to go out there as much as she wanted. I wanted to make it fun for her.”
Jenna certainly provided her teammate with a game to cheer about. The strong righty scattered five hits as she went the distance to record the shutout. Jenna got ample support from the Indian offense that set the tone early by scoring three runs in the first inning. After the first two batters got free passes, Hannah Stalker delivered an RBI double. Taylor Amazeen plated another run with a single. The third run scored on a passed ball. Amazeen would finish the game with a perfect 3-3 day.
The Indians did not have long to savor the victory as they took on an undefeated Neshaminy squad after only two day’s rest. The Redskins proved too much for North as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then cruised to a 6-2 win.
The next day, North had a chance to prove how resilient they were when they took on William Tennent. “It was rough in the beginning at William Tennent. We didn’t have our high energy. It was a rough start. We didn’t really win until the seventh and we won on an overthrow.”
The game marked the return of Amanda Camp, who looked sharp throwing six innings of shutout ball and allowing only five hits. North took the lead when Nicole Rounsavill led off the seventh with a double. After two Indian batters went down swinging, Rounsavill took third on a passed ball and scampered home when the throw to third base went into leftfield.
Not wanting to tax his senior pitcher, coach Engelhardt called on Jenna to close out the game. Jenna relished the save opportunity. “When I come in in relief in a tough situation, I feel like I’m more motivated then when I just come in at the start of the game. But it doesn’t matter whether I start or relieve – whatever helps the team.”
Jenna met the challenge, striking out two of the three batters she faced and moving the Rock to 8-1 and hot on the heels of undefeated Neshaminy. Little wonder she is euphoric about her rookie season.
“I love this team so much. I didn’t expect to be having so much fun. I love the girls. We all have such great talent together. We can go really far.”
Few fans would disagree with Jenna’s appraisal. The Indians have emerged as a real force in the Suburban One League.