Returning to Tampa to play softball for USF wasn’t on Jessica Mouse’s mind when she graduated from LSU in 2011 with her Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Administration.
The former Tigers 3B fractured her foot that season and softball didn’t even look to be a part of Mouse’s future.
Determined, she tried to play for her former team, LSU, in the Regionals that season, but was unable to. She couldn’t even run.
The foot, too swollen to play, was casted for four weeks and had more ligament damage than anything else.
Mouse, Chamberlain graduate, just wanted to be able to run again and after a difficult start to rehab, chances of that was becoming even slimmer.
“Once I injured myself and actually realized how bad it was, at that point I just told my trainer at LSU, I was like, at this point I am not even thinking about softball, as much as I love it, I just want to be able to run again.”
The third baseman couldn’t even run until January of this year.
Without softball, Mouse carried on with life and graduated from LSU.
Months later though, the foot healed.
That immediately had her thinking about softball again.
Mouse was born to play softball, the desire of playing again was never going to disappear.
Due to last season’s injury, Mouse was able to take advantage of an NCAA rule. Since she red-shirted in 2011, Mouse was eligible to play another season of softball, for her senior season.
That’s when home started calling the Chamberlain graduate back to Tampa.
Not only did USF have a Master’s program in Entrepreneurship that Mouse was interested in, the Bulls’ softball team already had other Chamberlain High graduates, Gina Kafalas and Stephanie Medina on their roster.
That made the decision even easier for Mouse.
“I had kept in touch with some of the girls and even hung out with them when I would come home for Christmas, we would always catch up and go to lunch or dinner.
“They were excited when they found out I was coming back and I was happy to be able to rekindle what we did in high school together,” Mouse said.
The third baseman, who has a .272 average on the season, bats second in USF’s lineup between former Chamberlain teammates and Bulls right fielder Kafalas and first baseman Medina.
According to Mouse, she couldn’t have chosen a better way to end her career.
Mouse brings leadership to the Bulls’ lineup, she has been a part of three NCAA tournament teams with the Tigers and has 123 victories under her belt.She’s just wants a few more wins for USF.
“There’s no better way for me and Gina to go out and start at Chamberlain High School and then go to the World Series.”
USF (50-12) faces the No. 4-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (50-8) in Thursday’s Women’s College World Series opener at Oklahoma City at 1 p.m.
If the Bulls are victorious in their series with the Sooners, the play the winner of of the LSU-California bracket, possibility putting Mouse against her old team.
Mouse and her teammates are just home town kids trying to win a championship for their city.
Mouse was thrilled when Tampa Bay Rays Coach Joe Maddon posted a tweet on Twitter about the USF softball team.
“That was a pretty big deal,” the Tampa native said.
Bulls coach Ken Eriksen, sees Mouse as his teams missing puzzle.
According to Eriksen, Mouse has won at least eight games for USF just on her glove play alone, including Mouse’s Sports Center Top 10 grab in the sixth inning en route to a 1-0 victory over UCF.
In that play, Mouse leapt to grab line drive from Central Florida’s Hayley Barrow while the bases were load.
It’s the play when Eriksen coined the term “Feed the Mouse.”
“Honestly I knew we were trying to jam up their batter, so of course you have to be ready for anything and I jumped up and was able to catch it,” Mouse said.
With the addition of Mouse at third-base, sophomore Kourtney Salvarola was able to move back to short stop, which is her natural position.
According to Eriksen, that gave the Bulls the chance to create the “most impressive left fields” he has seen on recent teams.
“It’s probably the strongest left side infields I’ve ever had,” he said. “By Jess coming it allowed us to move Kourtney Salvarola who’s a really good athlete back to the middle of the field.”
“They (Mouse and Salvarola) compliment each other very well,” Eriksen said. “Jess has tremendous range to her left and when she does that it gives Kourtney the opportunity to play more up the middle and then when we are playing certain defenses, you know, we move jess down and into the right and it gives Kourtney the opportunity to move down into her right because Kourtney has tremendous range to her left.”
The combination in Bulls’ left field has helped USF go all the way to the College World Series.