Powered By Twins With Motivational Philosophies And Winning Attitudes, Saint Francis Softball Seeks First Sac-Joaquin Section Title Since 1986 •
Hope & Grace.
It sounds like a motivational memoir that fits nicely into your staged background for virtual meetings, somewhere between How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Art of War.
Hope and Grace Jenkins are a bit of both.
The twin sisters on St. Francis-Sacramento’s softball team are a sensational mix of inspirational philosophy, athletic prowess, swagger and zeal. Oh, and dingers. Lots and lots of dingers.
Grace hit two of them beyond the outfield wall May 17 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II playoffs. She had a game-high three base knocks during the 8-1 drubbing of Cordova, while Hope tossed a seven-inning gem with 15 strikeouts.
Both seniors are bound for UConn on softball scholarships, and are two of the best players in Northern California. Through their playoff opener, they had combined for 80 hits, 15 doubles, 17 home runs and 52 runs scored in 154 at-bats. Hope also leads the SJS with 22 wins from the mound, and is sixth in strikeouts (274). Grace also catches.
“They both bring different things to the team, and they are both very athletic, very hungry to be successful — not just on the softball field, but in the classroom,” St. Francis coach Kevin Warren said. “When you can bring those types of things onto the field, it’s a huge thing for our program.”
What Hope and Grace bring onto the field is actually more unpredictable than Coach Warren is letting on. In their Div. II opener, Hope brought her white cowboy hat, and spent time away from the mound underneath that buckaroo bowler, glaring at the opposing infield from the gap in the St. Francis dugout.
It was an imposing scene to behold, when she wasn’t batting or mowing down hitters.
“That striking personality and that dominant presence is something needed in a pitcher,” Hope said. “So yeah, I’m going to stand in that doorway and put on my cowboy hat and cheer on my teammates as hard as I can.”
When she fanned the last batter to end the game, Hope let out some of that aggression with a sort of angry “whoop!”
It punctuated an impressive effort by the SJS No. 2 seed.
“I’m a very competitive person, and I’m not doing it out of disrespect to the other team, but because I am proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished during the game,” Hope said. “So when I let out that loud scream at the end of a game, it’s a ‘Yes. We won this and we got it done.’”
The runaway Troubadour train has more conductors than just the Jenkins twins. St. Francis has also picked up big contributions this season from senior Amy Abueg (22 hits, 24 runs and 12 RBI) and sophomore Alexandra Garcia (19 hits, 15 RBI and seven doubles).
Hope does command the circle, though. She is one of the top aces in a bracket that also includes No. 3 seed Elk Grove and junior sensation Aissa Silva (who St. Francis beat twice) and No. 1 seed Del Oro and senior ace Caroline Grimes (1-0 vs. St. Francis).
Del Oro and the Div. I top seed, Sheldon, are the only teams to beat St. Francis (24-3) this year.
“It’s really cool to be amongst all these great softball players,” Hope said. “Northern California has become really competitive, and I love being able to play Elk Grove, Sheldon, Del Oro — all these big schools.”
Big games loom well beyond the SJS postseason for Hope and Grace. This year, UConn finished as Big East regular season champions for the first time since 1997. The team was runner-up in the Big East postseason tourney, and just missed selection to the Women’s College World Series.
“I’m super excited to play under coach Laura Valentino, and could not be more excited and eager to get there and work with pitching coach Kyle Brady every single day,” Hope said. “I am very blessed to be on the East Coast, especially with my sister, and we are going to dorm together.”
Valentino was the inspiration for the other oddity brought to the Troubadours softball field May 17 — a jar of “rally beans” that Grace and other grinning teammates were seen shaking for good fortune inside the St. Francis dugout. The rudimentary momentum booster illustrates the positive philosophies that Grace brings to the program.
“My future coach, Laura Valentino recommended this book called The Coffee Bean by Jon Gordon, and it’s basically about transforming your own environment,” Grace said. “You don’t want to be an egg, which becomes hard boiled when you put it in hot water, or a carrot, which gets soft.
“When you put a coffee bean in water it transforms its environment, which becomes coffee.”
It’s a viewpoint that brews well on the dusty diamond.
“The whole entire message this year was about transforming our environment, playing our game on our field, or our game on a visitor’s field or neutral field,” Grace said. “Wherever it is, we have the ability to transform our environment, because we can control that.”
Grace said sharing these learned practices and experiences are important ways she can help her teammates get better, through sort-of equal-ground mentoring with her peers that is always angled toward improving their collective outcome — the game score.
She always has her eyes on the prize or, specifically, the available space in the Troubadour gymnasium.
“St. Francis hasn’t won a section title since 1986, though we had runner-up appearances in 1995 and 1996,” Grace said. “I want to get that blue banner.
“This is for all the players who played before us, and the players who played for St. Francis during Covid.”
Grace is all about impact on those around her. It’s why she shares values important to her, and why she pushes her sister so hard to be great. It’s a mutual habit that has made them both shine, and parents Kathleen and Charles Jenkins are proud UConn fans already.
And the life lessons won’t end at UConn.
“I love to read (motivational books) and write,” Grace said. “I would also love to go to law school one day and get involved in government.”
The next memoir you read may be a Jenkins classic, fueled by coffee beans and cowboy hats, with lots of Hope & Grace.