Written by Dan Messerschmidt Telegraph-Forum
No, not the singer/actress who cavorted with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. But this Jessica Simpson turned some heads, just the same, as a star pitcher for the Miami University Redhawks' softball team.
Simpson has roots in Crawford County. She is the granddaughter of Bill and Barb Kaple of New Washington. Her mother, Karen, is a 1980 graduate of Buckeye Central High School.
As her grandfather, Bill is rightfully proud of Simpson, a 2008 graduate of North Canton Hoover High School.
"As a freshman in 2009, she was (Mid-American Conference) tournament MVP with a 4-0 record," Kaple said. "For eight years, at North Canton Hoover and now this, it's hard to top."
The "this" that Kaple referred to was another MAC tournament MVP and a trip to the NCAA tournament for his granddaughter.
Simpson had a love of sports and played a number of them before narrowing her focus to softball.
New sport"I really was into sports when I was younger," Simpson said. "I played basketball, softball and volleyball. I always knew I wanted to play a sport in college. It turned out that softball was my sport."
Was it ever.
Simpson became a dominant pitcher, as indicated by the Miami and MAC records she accumulated in her four years in the circle for the Redhawks.
She holds MAC records for career wins (102) and career shutouts (46). Simpson also established Miami records with 32 wins and 358 strikeouts this season and career complete games with 117 and 1,021 career strikeouts.
This year, especially the post-season, demonstrates what an iron woman she has been.
To get to the NCAA tournament, the Redhawks had to battle their way out of the losers' bracket to win the MAC tournament.
The Redhawks lost 1-0 to Central Michigan to open the tourney. The next day, they beat Kent State at 11 a.m. and defeated Ball State -- the No. 1 seed -- at 7 p.m. The following day, Miami beat Western Michigan in an 11 a.m. game, before facing defeating Central Michigan twice, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. with Simpson toeing the rubber in each. She pitched 42 innings in three days, giving up just three runs.
"Thursday we went to Knoxville and had to play Tennessee," Kaple said. "They were like the fourth ranked team in the country and Jess shut them out, 1-0. The next day, she lost to Virginia Tech in 100 degree heat. The team started to run out of gas."
Ready for collegeSimpson was well prepared for Division I college after having played on state championship teams her sophomore and senior years at Division I Hoover.
"A lot of things stand out," Simpson said, looking back. "I loved my career, both high school and college. Shutting out Tennessee was big. We were only the third team to do that. It was a huge upset. It's something I'll remember for a long time."
Her athletic prowess is not surprising, considering her pedigree. Grandpa Kaple was a multi-sport athlete at New Washington (Class of '58) and her uncle, Brett Kaple, was a prolific scorer in basketball at Buckeye Central and now coaches at Colonel Crawford.
For her efforts, Simpson was mentioned in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd in the June 4 issue.
Next stepThough her playing days are over, Simpson has no intention of leaving behind the sport she loves.
"I can't imagine my life without softball in it in some way, shape or form," Simpson said. "I plan to be an English teacher and coach softball, along with giving pitching lessons."
Simpson will graduate in December and, as she put it, "Try to find a job wherever life takes me." She did indicate she would prefer to go somewhere warmer, which would be better for her softball coaching aspirations.
With her resume, it's easy to believe that Simpson will succeed wherever she goes.
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