116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Fifty-six.
That’s how many times Jayna Witzany’s name appears in Mount Mercy softball’s record book. Career records. Single-season marks. Game bests. Her most cherished feat might be the latest that placed her atop the Mustangs’ career wins list.
“Honestly, I think that was my favorite record to have beaten here, because it’s a tribute to all the girls I have played with in the past three years and this year,” said Witzany, who broke the old record of 55 set by Gwen Weber from 1994-97. “It takes a team to win a game.
“Yes, it’s my name on the record, but all the girls I’ve played with my entire career here has contributed to each win that goes on that record.”
Witzany is 20-3 with 60 career victories entering third-seeded Mount Mercy’s Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament opener against No. 6 MidAmerica Nazarene Thursday at Busse Field in Cedar Rapids. She was named NAIA Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday, recording 24 strikeouts in two wins and allowing just five hits in 12 innings.
“It is key to have a defense you can trust behind you,” Witzany said. “Girls are playing brand new positions and they’re doing exceptionally well. They took the challenge head on and it was great to see.
“Every time there is a groundball or pop fly you know they’re going to give their best effort to get it.”
Witzany is a big part of that success. She has stymied opponents this season, posting 14 shutouts and striking out a whopping 261 in 165 1/3 innings pitched with 21 complete games and a 0.80 earned-run average.
She has padded her school records for shutouts in a season and career, increasing the latter to 31 total. Witzany owns 708 career strikeouts, surpassing Becca Smith’s old mark of 553 set 12 years ago. She also ranks among the all-time best in innings pitched, starts, complete games, strikeouts per game (almost doubling her average this season) and saves.
Individual dominance hasn’t been her focus.
“No, it happens accidentally,” Witzany said with a chuckle. “I’ve never once had a goal of strikeouts, groundouts or pop outs. My goal is to just get an out and however that happens, it happens.”
Interestingly, Witzany steps into the circle with one of two approaches. Depending on the game situation, she turns her mind off and relies on her physical technique. Other times, she counts on the game plan set up and called by Mustangs assistant John Olachnovich.
“It depends on the game situation,” Witzany said. “Half the time you don’t think. You have to trust your spin, your ball and each pitch that I’ve been working mechanically for 18 years of my life. I have to trust that my body knows how to throw it and where to throw it exactly where I want it, but there is also a strategy that goes into it. I have to fully trust my coach, who is calling each pitch. He knows where each pitch should be. I know if I put it there we’re going to get the outcome we need.
“Either no thoughts or a strategy to trust the players around you.”
Witzany powered the Mustangs to the NAIA World Series last year, earning 23 wins and a school single-season record 308 strikeouts. She still went to work to improve for this season.
The development of a changeup has been a priority each season with Olachnovich. She has witnessed progress.
“It’s finally starting,” Witzany said. “Not consistently but every once in a while I can get a good one. Personally, that’s my goal.”
Mount Mercy (32-17) won eight of its last 12 regular-season games, including a 3-0 victory over No. 11-ranked and second-seeded Grand View. The Mustangs have a young lineup with just five total seniors on the roster. They have grown with the season.
“This season has been very exciting,” Witzany said. “We weren’t sure, losing as many seniors as we did last year, how it was going to go, but this team has just come together as one, which was huge for us.
“Everybody gets along. Everybody plays well together. We’re learning each other’s strengths.”