Calabasas- The softball field at Calabasas high school lies in a tucked away location. The only sounds that are heard are squirrels chasing each other up trees, rabbits that scamper into holes and the constant sound of leather meeting wood with power generated from Jordyn Vanhook. It is a place of tranquility for Vanhook who just won her second city title and is now looking into the future. But for now, the grind of needing at-bats remains the same.
Calabasas’s softball for the past two years has become Vanhook’s escape from everyday life. Her very own laboratory whose location is practically detached from the school. It’s perfect to continually craft what has become one of the fiercest swings in the country.
Her father Al tosses a pitch and the batter’s box becomes a launching pad that showcases Jordyn’s incredible power. Her first seven balls she hits are blistered out of the ballpark and five of them land in the baseball field.
“It’s scary pitching to her,” Vanhook’s hitting coach Ryan Smith says. “Her power is just unreal to where you’re looking at her and wondering where it all comes from.”
Vanhook’s power session is just a taste compared to the presence she has brought to the field during her four seasons at El Camino Real high school. Her strength, even as a freshman was unmatched.
During her first season, she set a new standard. As a pinch hitter, she rocketed a ball that flew off the barrel of her bat. The ball traveled farther than any ball that had been hit at ECR that cleared the 17-foot fence in left field and landed 250 feet into a crowded street. It was longtime LA Daily News sportswriter Tony Ciniglio that gave her the nickname “Valley Circle” named after the street her ball landed in.
“After I hit that first ball into Valley Circle it just gave me the confidence to know that I am one of the top hitters,” Vanhook said. “All the power comes from all the training I’ve done with my dad and then my mentality is to not try and hit home runs. The mindset is to just hit line drives every time.”
But Vanhook’s influence on the game and on her team has gone beyond her ability to simply hit the long ball. Her leadership off the field helped ignite ECR who struggled mightily in the first few games of the season. The program started 0-2 which began with a surprising loss at home to Chaminade and then got shutout by Kennedy.
ECR was carrying seven freshmen who began to feel a culture shock. After the second loss, Vanhook and fellow senior Monique Quesada scheduled a players-only meeting to help their underclassmen feel more comfortable with talking with Vanhook and the other players.
“That really became the turning point to our season,” junior outfielder Sabrina Olmo said. “We just went out and talked about the expectations of the season and after that rough stretch we got closer and we were able to figure out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it.”
After the meeting, ECR found its confidence by winning its next three games. Vanhook continued to exert her authority over opposing pitchers. That was at least until she ran into her rival into Chatsworth pitcher Ava Justman.
In April the two foes squared off and Justman dominated Vanhook. Armed with a pitch that called the “scrise”, a combination of a screwball and rise, Justman baffled Vanhook and struck her out three times. As maddening as the game became for Vanhook, she didn’t show any negative emotions. There wasn’t any crying, bat smacking or glove throwing. Instead, she went back to her lab out in the woods in Calabasas the next day.
“The one thing about her is the fact that we always have her back and she always had ours,” junior outfielder Caitlyn Wall said. “Even when she had rough nights she wouldn’t let any of it get her down and I think that’s because of the type of confidence she has in herself as a player. She knows how good she is as a player.”
The competitive drive that’s been built inside of Vanhook means that no one gets off easy. Her next game against Justman who is committed to Wisconsin, Vanhook was more disciplined at the plate and went 2-3 with a home run in a losing effort.
Vanhook finished her high school career where no team dared pitched to her. That was until the CIF City Championship Open Division title where Vanhook hit three home runs her last game with ECR and batted 1.000 for the tournament.
Now Vanhook has her sights set Alberta B. Farrington Field in Tempe. She has already set the bar high on herself. Her goal? To start as a freshman. Then comes the task of helping the Sun Devils reclaim their first National Championship since 2013.
“I want to be the best,” Vanhook said. “I’ve always set high expectations on myself and that’s because of the coaches I’ve had around me who have pushed me. I know I can overcome every challenge that is put in front of me and I’m just excited to show everyone at Arizona State that I’m ready.”
Written by Ethan Hanson