Forest Fights Through Tragedy And Shines in Twilight of Career

For more information about the Erika Jantz Memorial Fund, call 805-937-2028.

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One phrase comes up again and again when talking about Cal softball's senior pitcher Jocelyn Forest.

She's a fighter.

"Going through the tragedy she's been through has to be devastating, but she has come back and thrown incredibly well," Bears coach Diane Ninemire says. "There's something driving her and she just fights."

Less than a week after her sister, Erika Jantz, 26, of Orcutt, Calif., was allegedly killed by her husband during a domestic dispute, Forest returned to the diamond April 21 to lead Cal to a 2-1 victory over No. 1 Arizona.

"To come back the way she did was amazing after the week she had," third baseman Candace Harper said after the game. "It just shows what a fighter she is."

Forest obliterated the Wildcats, striking out 15 batters and allowing just one hit in seven innings.

"That first weekend I just felt like a zombie and I needed to come out and play," Forest says. "I was thinking about my sister the whole time, so it wasn't so much focus as adrenaline and anger I was throwing on."

Ninemire called it the performance of a lifetime, but it didn't take Forest long to add another gem.

Last weekend, against No. 8 Washington, she struck out 17 while allowing four hits and a pair of unearned runs in the Bears' 3-2 victory.

"She could have very easily gone in the tank," Ninemire says. "But there's something driving her, and she's had two of her best performances and been at the top of her game the past couple weeks."

Instead of collapsing amid the distractions, Forest has turned the events of the past weeks into motivation.

"My sister's death makes me want to do well, almost in dedication to her and to overcome it all," Forest says. "I don't want the rest of my life to fall apart."

As part of the healing process, Forest has helped set up the Erika Jantz Memorial Fund through Mid-State Bank to raise money for her 10-year old nephew's college education.

"My parents have a big job ahead of them raising Taylor and I want to do what I can to help," Forest says.

The determination and perseverance she has displayed in her return is critical for a young pitching staff that at times has had to work with limited offensive protection.

"She's our ace, and we'll go as far as she can take us," Harper said.

That trip has seen Cal rise to No. 6 in the nation and third in the Pac-10, the country's toughest conference.

Forest has been superb, completing 25 games en route to a 20-10 record and 1.08 ERA. She has struck out 299 batters in 207 innings, allowing a mere 47 walks and holding opponents to a .159 batting average.

"There are only a couple of pitchers in the country that can dominate a game like Jocelyn," Ninemire says. "When she throws that well, we can focus on offense. She'll give us a chance to win every time she pitches, and we just have to score runs."

Although she arrived in Berkeley with plenty of talent, her work ethic has propelled Forest into the ranks of elite pitchers.

"She works very hard to be ready physically to play the game and she's always developing and learning," Ninemire says.

Forest acknowledges how important physical conditioning and strength training have been to success.

"I love working out and spending time at the gym," she says. "I think I could probably live in one."

Not surprisingly, Forest is considering working with the team next year on strength and conditioning while possibly pursuing a master's degree in education after graduating this May with a bachelor's degree in American studies. She hopes to turn that experience into a career as a personal trainer with the goal of eventually owning a gym.

Forest has ridden her combination of talent and dedication into Cal's record books.

She is second all-time at Cal with 917 innings pitched in 159 games. Her 94 wins are second in school history, as are her 1,123 strikeouts.

But it isn't only in the record books that Forest wants to leave a lasting impression.

"I'm very aggressive and I expect to win," she says. "I'm sort of a perfectionist so I get frustrated with mistakes even if we win. I think that has rubbed off on my teammates, or I hope it has."

Ninemire points to the example Forest sets for her teammates.

"She brings a lot of leadership both on and off the field. She's taken it upon herself to motivate our other pitchers to train as hard as she does," Ninemire says. "She's a good mentor and she will leave something to them when she's done playing here."

Interestingly, Forest might have easily ended up as a concert pianist rather than an All-America softball player.

"When I was nine, I spent a lot of time throwing to my dad in the back yard, but I also spent a lot of time banging on the piano at our house even though I didn't know how to play," she recalls. "My aunt debated whether to give me pitching lessons or piano lessons for Christmas, and she decided on the pitching."

The returns were quick, and people began to notice. Two years later, Forest made her first traveling team, the Orcutt Express.

"Before I started pitching I was sort of a scrub that always got stuck in the outfield," she says. "When I was a sophomore in high school, I played in San Jose and I started thinking about coming to Cal."

Within a year, she was being recruited by Arizona State and Washington, as well as the Bears.

"Washington was supposed to be my top choice because they had a great program and were expected to do well, but I just wanted to come to Cal," Forest says. "I like California and I wanted to be close enough to my family to see them."

She chose Cal, and in Berkeley she has made her mark.

"This has been a really exciting year for me and the people I'm with make it worth the hard work I've put in," Forest says. "Sometimes I can't wait to have a normal life without a crazy schedule, but I realize this has been the best time of my life and I only have a few more weeks to cherish it."


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