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Ex-Zebra earns her keep at Jessup

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Rainy days and Mondays don’t get Cassie Emerson down, even when they are one in the same. Losing a softball practice to wet weather won’t dampen the William Jessup University junior’s mood. Emerson would have much rather been outdoors Monday afternoon, taking a few swings and fielding grounders. The diamond at Lone Tree Park was soaked, however, and more rain was on the way. That forced coach Jessica Pistole and her players into the gymnasium to lift weights and play catch. Batting practice was reduced to a coach lobbing balls and the players smacking them into a net. Softball may be a spring sport, but spring does not begin until Sunday. Even after it does, who knows how long it will take for Mother Nature to cooperate by sending the clouds away for a few months. Emerson was not all that upset after Monday’s practice was washed out. Dealing with the weather is nothing new for the 2008 Lincoln High School graduate. And losing one practice was “no biggie.” Two years ago, Emerson was playing softball as a freshman at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. The team spent more time in the gym than on the field because spring was in no hurry to arrive. That was the primary reason why Emerson renounced her scholarship to Saint Francis after one year. “I wasn’t homesick at all,” she said. “The softball atmosphere was 110 percent different there than it is here. We had to play in the gym because there were sheets of ice and snow on the field.” Without a scholarship, Emerson came home with no idea of how she could afford to go to college and play softball. She began to think she was finished with softball when she got a call from Pistole. What Pistole had to offer was nothing compared with what Emerson had at Saint Francis. An athletic scholarship to Jessup provides a moderate amount of financial assistance, but it is not a full ride. “We were pampered (at Saint Francis),” Emerson said. “They took care of everything for us.” Emerson can’t afford to live in the student apartments at Jessup, and her modest place in Rocklin does not have a washer and dryer. She has to go to her parents’ house in Lincoln to do her laundry. Those visits also allow Emerson to spend time with her sister Katie, a Lincoln High senior who plays second base for the softball team. The sisters were teammates in 2008 when Katie was promoted to the varsity squad as a freshman. Last season was the first for softball at Jessup, so all Pistole could offer Emerson was an opportunity to join a team starting from scratch. Emerson had never heard of Jessup until Pistole called. “I used to drive by it all the time, but I didn’t know it was a school,” she said. “It looked like a prison.” Not only did Emerson find a new place to play, but she also discovered a challenge with a fledgling team. “We had nothing to lose. That’s the best place to be in,” she said. “On the field, everybody clicked. We all knew how to get the job done. (Pistole) was the mastermind. With her team plan, there was no way to fail.” Pistole also found what she was a seeking, a passionate player who was willing to pay the price for success. “She’s a coach’s dream,” Pistole said. “She’s tough as nails. There’s no question she gives everything she’s got.” Jessup will travel to Bethany University in Scotts Valley on Friday for its California Pacific Conference opener. The Warriors (8-12) will play their first three conference doubleheaders on the road. Pistole’s team went 10-6 in the conference last season and finished 27-20 overall.