ST. CLAIRSVIILLE - It should come as no surpise that St. Clairsville shortstop Jesse Machovina plays the game at a high level.
Frankly, that's where she's most comfortable.
You see, when someone says Machovina can fly, they're not just talking about how quickly she gets from base to base.
PHOTOS by SHAWN RINE
St. Clairsville's Jesse Machovina
She can actually fly.
In December, the two-time All-Valley infielder got her pilots liscense and is rated for single-engine land planes, or, as she put it, ''small planes that aren't super complicated.''
After she finishes playing softball and learning more about aviation at Ohio State, she wants to become a commercial airline pilot, which is something of a lofty goal.
The flying thing started out innocently enough.
''My grandpa owned a plane down in Florida, so we'd go down there on vacation and he'd take me flying,'' she said. ''So I was like, 'I want to fly.'
''So they sent me down there and I started doing training when I was 13.''
Apparently, she's a natural. It's no more difficult than going in the hole and throwing out a runner from deep shortstop.
''The test was the hardest thing about it,'' she said. ''Flying is the easy part.''
Growing up in a family full of baseball-playing brothers, Machovina began softball much earlier.
''Growing up with them, they've always pushed me,'' she said. ''My dad's been my coach for as long as I can remember. Not on the field, but at home. He's always doing that work with me. He knows the game better than anybody I know.''
Most kids like that end up being pitchers, which Machovina tried. But her brother was a catcher, so she wanted to be one, too.
''That turned into forget about pitching at all,'' she said.
Concentrating on hitting and fielding wasn't such a bad idea.
As a sophomore, she hit .560 wtih 47 hits. As a junior, she hit .589 with three home runs and 20 RBI. Already this season - and it's not finished yet - she's hitting .603 (44-for-73) with five home runs and 26 RBI from the leadoff spot. She gets on base 63 percent of the time and 17 of her hits have gone for extra bases. Her slugging percentage is right at .1000.
''She's got the most talent of anybody I've ever coached,'' Red Devils coach Rachel Duncan said. ''She's got great ball sense. It's just a very natural thing.''
Duncan bats Machovina leadoff because she gets on base so frequently. And she can steal second, be bunted to third, and score a quick run.
You'd be amazed how often that works.
With 26 RBI, it's clear those at the bottom of the St. C. lineup are doing their job of getting on base ahead of her.
''It usually somehow always falls where there are people on for her,'' Duncan said.