Another Sooner student-athlete who has learned how to juggle her OU playing career and academics with an extensive commitment to the US National Team, Jessica Shults has had the additional challenge of dealing with a serious health issue that became a significant concern at the end of the 2011 spring semester. With her major in communication, she has been named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll once and has been a Sooner Scholar once.
Unflappable toughness would probably be the best two words to describe this Sooner senior. The team’s catcher and obvious emotional leader, Jessica Shults has to be calm and steady between the lines. She has done that well enough to earn All-American honors three times, one first team and two second. It’s what she has done outside those lines that set her apart. Hospitalized as the postseason was starting in 2011 with severe pain that would be diagnosed as pan ulcerative colitis, she missed seven games before coming back for the WCWS. She had battled the condition throughout the season as her coaches and teammates watched their offensive ring leader losing energy, strength and weight. Her ability to return to the team despite the weeks of significant pain and illness, the 25 pounds she lost from mid-March to mid-May, her eventual hospitalization and the side effects of the medications to treat the condition gave her teammates a true appreciation of what it means to give yourself completely to the team’s goals. When she took it a step further and talked publicly about what she had gone through in hopes of shedding light on the rare genetic disease and to keep others from thinking they were suffering alone, her leadership went to a new level. She has proven to be a clutch performer behind and at the plate, coming through on defense or with the game-winning run. Ultimately, though, she is clutch on and off the field and her teammates know it.
Jessica Shults has taken her own experience with pan ulcerative colitis and used it to speak up about the rare genetic disease, particularly challenging for an elite collegiate student-athlete. With her opportunities to talk about her experience, she hopes to keep someone else from suffering like she did for as long as she did. In her own words, “It was something that should have been taken more seriously than I took it so I hope my story educates people who are going through similar situations.” Along with her softball teammates, she has volunteered at area non-profit agencies including the latest effort, a week in late November, at Mission Norman. A food pantry, stocked and run through volunteers only, Gascoigne and her teammates spent three afternoons, stocking shelves, packing food boxes, helping people select food items and then carrying those items to their cars.
A three-time NFCA All-American, first team in 2012 and second team in 2011 and 2010, Jessica Shults has been named to the NCAA All-Central Regional first team three consecutive years. She was named the 2012 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year after hitting .379 with 20 home runs and 65 RBI. She is a three-time All-Big 12 honoree, twice on the first team and once on the second team. She has set the Big 12 and OU career record for homeruns with 57 and she ranks second in Big 12 and OU career RBI (213). Additionally, she is the school career record holder with a .708 slugging percentage, a .994 fielding average and putouts by a catcher (1,714).) She currently ranks fifth in on-base percentage, fifth in total bases (422), sixth in extra-base hits (92) and seventh in career walks (105). She ranks fifth currently on the team in batting average (.338) and is second on the team in runs batted in (28). She was an alternate for the 2011 US National Team and then played extensively for the 2012 US National Team. She scored four runs and had three RBI to help Team USA to a silver medal at the 2012 ISF XIII Women’s World Fastpitch Championship. She also appeared in two games for the gold-medal-winning Team USA and the 2012 World Cup of Softball.