After Growing Up On The Campus And Fields Of Mountain View’s St. Francis High, Jess Oakland Leaves As Perhaps Its Most Decorated Softball Player •
Jess Oakland certainly has left her imprint on St. Francis High School softball.
Oakland seemingly has been around the school in Mountain View her entire life.
Her father, Mike, has been coaching at St. Francis since his daughter was barely old enough to walk. A former Santa Clara University hitting coach, Mike served 10 years as baseball coach for the Lancers before making the move to softball in 2016, giving him the opportunity to eventually coach his daughter.
In so many ways, it’s been a special time.
For her and the Lancers and their coaches, this season was a wonder to behold. Not only did St. Francis (31-2) win its last 18 games, the Lancers began that streak by winning the first seven games by shutout. After going 10-0 to win the West Catholic Athletic League, they didn’t just win the Central Coast Section Open Division championship, they took it in dramatic fashion 6-5 in nine innings against Archbishop Mitty-San Jose.
They crushed it in NorCals, beating St. Francis-Sacramento 8-2, and then won 4-0 over Sheldon-Sacramento, avenging an early-April loss to the Huskies. It was all St. Francis again in the Division I championship game, a 6-0 triumph over Clovis. Celebrating her school becoming the first to win a NorCal Division I softball championship was a great feeling to end her run at a place that has always felt like home.
“Growing up around St. Francis, I have always felt comfortable there, and felt comfortable around the adults there,” Jess Oakland said. “It was exciting to compete under the St. Francis name, knowing what my dad had done there.”
Her team’s accomplishments aside, Oakland’s personal stats this season were astounding: a .578 batting average, 52 hits, 52 runs, 67 RBIs and a .917 fielding percentage at shortstop. Her 21 home runs tied her for ninth in the nation among stats reported on MaxPreps.com, which recognized the Lancers by ranking them 21st in the U.S after the playoffs. They were also the obvious pick for the No. 1 slot in SportStars’ final 2022 NorCal Softball Rankings. Just like Oakland was the obvious pick for SportStars’ NorCal Player of the Year.
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Oakland has been able to see the nation’s top competition in travel ball. She has played with the Cal Nuggets since she was 12. All of which had her eagerly awaiting the high school postseason expanding past the section playoffs. The inaugural NorCals were put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but finally became a reality in 2022.
“It was really cool that they expanded the playoffs and you could see all that talent,” Oakland said. “It was nerve-wracking at first, but then we were able to see their hitters and make adjustments and we settled down.”
Her new home will be the University of Minnesota. She found the softball program, the locale and the campus an ideal fit for her. She is planning to major in kinesiology.
She is one of six seniors on this spring’s team who will be playing collegiately. The familiarity with each other fostered the team’s great success.
“What made it a special season for her was a combination of playing her senior year with a group of girls that she is very close with and has played with for a long time, along with having a lot of success as a team,” Mike Oakland said.
“It was the team chemistry,” Jess confirmed. “We had zero drama.”.
So once the final out was recorded against Clovis, did Oakland fully realize her long association with St. Francis was over? Nope.
“It did not hit me then … It was the Monday afterward when we did not have practice,” she said.
Her freshman year, Oakland batted .422 for a team that lost to Mitty in the CCS Open Division finals. As a sophomore, Oakland only played in one game before the 2020 season was called off at the onset of the pandemic. As a junior, she batted .612 and socked 19 home runs as the Lancers went 26-0, with a 12-0 run to the WCAL title and capturing the CCS Open Division championship with a 6-0 win over Notre Dame-Salinas.
Oakland felt bad for the seniors who graduated in 2020 and 2021 and missed a chance to extend their season. The experiences of the past two years provided her with a sense of gratitude.
”It taught me to be grateful for every little thing I was able to do with softball,” she said.
While she knows her family will travel to see her play college ball, she won’t have her dad coaching her. “I’ll miss him being my coach and getting on me,” she said.
She’s created lasting memories on the softball field she’s known for so long.
“I decided I wanted to leave a legacy where people can say, ‘that was the girl who went to St. Francis,’” she said.
Indeed, people will be saying that.