SAINT JOSEPH, Mo. (BVM) — Jaylee Wilson is a special talent on the softball diamond, and being rated as the No. 1 infielder in her class in the state of Missouri proves that. Despite a tough loss to finish her junior season a few weeks ago, just hours later, Wilson celebrated one of the proudest moments of her life.
Wilson began playing tee ball around age 6, first realizing her love for the sport. Throughout her youth, she would also realize her natural talent in the game of softball. Part of that talent comes from her mom and aunt, both former softball players that Wilson claims, “blessed her with good genes.”
During her youth career, Wilson would continue moving up through the ranks, playing travel softball. Currently, she plays for Top Gun Academy, which has given her great experience playing against top competition around the country.
“We play against the best competition we can play against which is a really good thing,” Wilson said. “It makes you better in a way and it’s getting me prepared for college which I’m so excited for.”
By the time Wilson played 14U ball, she realized she may have the chance to continue her playing career in college if she wanted to. And this fall, the shortstop’s realization finally became official.
After a tough loss in districts with her St. Joseph Central High School team, Wilson was understandably dejected. However, after the game, her mom called her over to let her know she had a missed call from Iowa City, Iowa.
“I had no idea,” Wilson said about the call. “After the game I checked my phone and it was coach Renee Gillispie, head coach at Iowa.”
Wilson and coach Gillispie would go on to talk about the loss in districts. But the conversation would quickly change to the shortstop’s college future.
“She brought up, ‘Do you want to be a Hawkeye?’” Wilson said. “And I was like, ‘Holy crap, I did not see this coming.’”
The 17-year-old softball star took some time to consider the offer, and decided to take an official visit to Iowa City. Despite some other college interest, the visit sealed the deal for Wilson.
“We went up to Iowa, and it was gorgeous,” Wilson said. “I loved the campus and it’s like home away from home. I instantly fell in love with it.”
That night, Wilson called Gillispie back to let her know she would indeed become a Hawkeye. It’s a dream come true to play Division I college softball for Wilson, and she is excited for the opportunity she has.
I am beyond excited to announce that I have decided to further my academics and athletic career at the University of Iowa! A big thank to my coaches, teammates, family, and friends for all the support. I’m blessed to be a Hawkeye!💛🖤@iowasoftball @CoachRGillispie @TrenaPrater pic.twitter.com/RRNAZWopgm
— Jaylee Wilson (@jaylee_wilson) October 15, 2020
“I’m stoked,” Wilson said. “When this happened, I had never been so excited in my life. One of my biggest goals was always playing Division I softball. For the Hawkeyes, I really want to go somewhere with them. One of my biggest goals now is to go on and win the world series.”
While a bright future awaits at Iowa, Wilson still has one more season left at Central, where she has had a tremendous softball career over the years. As a freshman, Wilson was admittedly nervous coming in, but she quickly settled in and enjoyed a good season. As a sophomore, Wilson enjoyed becoming closer with her team each game. But this past season is the one that stands out most for the junior.
“Junior year was definitely my favorite year so far,” Wilson said. “Our team chemistry was awesome and we all wanted to win.”
Wilson also performed extremely well on the diamond as a junior. At the plate, she batted .471 with three home runs and 32 RBIs. But the 17-year-old is also a star in the field, and turned three double plays to contribute to her .957 fielding percentage.
The incredible fall campaign comes on the heels of a disrupted spring and summer travel ball season for Wilson. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, Wilson was not even sure she would have a high school season in 2020.
“I honestly didn’t think we were going to have a season at all with the way things were going,” Wilson explained. “You just have to stay positive through all of it and hope for the best. It really would have sucked if we didn’t have this season because we got really close this year, so I’m glad we had it.”
The special season has Wilson ranked as the No. 1 shortstop in Missouri in her class by Extra Inning Softball. She is also ranked inside the top-50 nationally. Although she is a team-centric player, seeing these rankings proves to her that her hard work is paying off.
“I’m beyond grateful for that,” Wilson said about the rankings. “I honestly had no idea until it came out but I’m trying to be the best I can be. It makes me want to work harder and it makes me more hungry. I want to move up in the national ranks a little bit and continue to grow and get better.”
Coming off a disappointing end to her junior campaign, Wilson hopes to take her team further next fall as a senior. But it will not be doable without her teammates, who whether it is playing for St. Joseph Central or Top Gun, have meant everything over the years to the shortstop.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without my teammates,” Wilson said. “I think it’s really cool that I have a group of girls in high school ball who are like a family and then I go to travel ball and it’s the same thing, they’re my family and my sisters. It’s just cool to have both of those teams and have teammates that have your back for everything and are there for you.”
As of right now, Wilson will look to pursue a business degree in college at Iowa. After her time as a Hawkeye is done, Wilson hopes to remain around her favorite sport through coaching or giving lessons.
But for now, Wilson has several more years to shine on the diamond. While she is a dominant player, it’s everything that softball stands for beyond the physical play on the field that Wilson has come to love, and she will continue to enjoy it for years to come.
“Having a lot of energy and coming with a good attitude are some of the best parts of my game,” Wilson said. “Being the best player you can be on the field and off the field, showing respect off the field and being willing to help others is always nice. You’re not always going to have the best game but knowing you have a teammate there to pick you up is always nice too. Or being that teammate that picks someone else up is even better, and it builds your character in a way.”