Since the turn of the decade, the small town of Rose Bud has seen their Lady Rambler softball program go above and beyond for their school and community. One state championship in 2017 and three state runner-up finishes in 2012, 2016 and 2018 are at the top of the list when bringing up top historical moments. Recently, senior phenom and University of Missouri commit Joley Mitchell added to that rich history after being named the 2018 MaxPreps National Junior Player of the Year.

“What an amazing feeling”, exclaimed the All-American third baseman. “I have always worked continuously and pushed myself to be the best I can be. I’ve had to remind myself that if I just perform, awards will follow, and I don’t need to focus on them throughout the season. I just need to strive to be better and let them come to me.”

 Mitchell led the Lady Rambler offense from the leadoff spot over the course of the 2018 season, batting .659 to go with 24 home runs, 82 scored runs, and 71 runs batted in, also adding a 1.658 slugging percentage and a 2.425 on-base percentage into the mix, all while striking out only twice in 33 games, accumulating All-Conference All-Region, All-State, All-State Tournament and National Fastpitch Coaches Association 1st Team All-South Central Region nods along the way.

 “I believe she is very deserving of this award,” said Rose Bud head softball coach Scotty Starkey. “Her stats tell the story even if you’ve never seen her play. There is no offseason for her, and that shows how hard and how much she works. No matter how long or how hard of a practice we had as a team, you knew she would go home and go to work again on her game and her strength and conditioning.”

 The five-tool player also etched her name into the state record books by shattering the top marks for home runs in one season with 24, total runs scored in a season with 82, most home runs in a career with 45, and most career runs scored with 196 in 103 games, all considering she still has an entire season left to play, where she stands third in the state in career hits and second in career slugging percentage. Mitchell’s home run totals for 2018 landed her fourth in the nation, taking sixth in the nation in slugging percentage and seventh in total runs scored as well.

To put into context of how vital of a role Mitchell played for the team, of the 33 games the Lady Ramblers played, she provided at least one run in each of them while 12 of them saw her finish perfect in the box, including a remarkable four-for-four game against Tuckerman where she crushed three pitches for home runs, scored four runs and drove in eight. From third base, Mitchell racked up Golden Glove-level numbers with a .973 fielding percentage, making her a lifetime .985 after putting up a perfect 1.000 as a freshman and .967 as a sophomore.

 Looking at the list, it’s clear to see that many of the girls selected alongside Mitchell as All-Americans hail from much larger cities, but the 5’9” senior will never take her hometown and school, where her mother, Alexis, is a teacher, for granted.

 “I have been in the tiny town of Rose Bud for 13 years. When I was younger I had no idea what it meant. Now, after playing travel ball all over the country, I realize that it is a huge deal for the less than 500 people that live in Rose Bud.”

 In the past three seasons, the Lady Rambler faithful have seen their team make three consecutive treks to the Class 3A State Finals, finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2018 while taking home the gold in 2017, the school’s first state championship in the sport. In that same span came a compiled 88-15 record (27-2 at home).

“Rose Bud fans are the absolute best,” exclaimed Mitchell. “They cheer on their hometown athletes wherever they are or wherever they may end up. I love each and every one of them and I am proud to say that I could help put Rose Bud on the map.”

 When asked if she helped break the stereotype that great, hard-working players mainly come from larger towns and get the attention of college coaches more easily, Mitchell believes that she did make strides in doing just that.

 “In some ways. I know girls from small towns that do the same. Not many people realize that it doesn’t matter where you come from. I practice and train so much, and being from a small town will never stop me from believing that any athlete from a small town can do tremendous things, no matter their roots. I hope that little girls from small towns like Rose Bud realize that it never matters where you’re from. What really matters is how hard you work.”

 If it’s one thing the slugger knows well, it’s what it takes to reach the pinnacle, putting in countless hours of reps while many others are staying in from the heat that the summer brings.

 “When I am not traveling, I hit eight to ten buckets a day, I run sprints until I cannot run anymore, I swim for cardio, and workout to keep my muscle strength up. The “secret ingredient” behind all of this has definitely been determination. I would never be the person and athlete I am today without being determined. Also, knowing that I have so much to look forward to after working long and hard keeps me motivated to be better.”

 Mitchell made it clear that her foot will remain on the gas pedal for the remainder of her high school career and into her college career, pursuing the opportunity of perhaps playing professionally soon.

 “I need to work nonstop to be recognized in the years to come. My senior season is definitely going to be bigger and better than my last three seasons. I am pleased with what I had to show my first three high school seasons, but I know I can do better. I need to focus more on myself and focus more on the game, as playing this game will take me the farthest in whatever I do. I have a few more tournaments left this summer and plan to make the most of them through every at-bat, pitch, ground ball, and stolen base. I am blessed to have the chance to continue my career into college and hopefully a professional career after that.”

 Coach Starkey looks forward to seeing what Mitchell will bring to the table in 2019, taking the field with some familiar faces as well as some new ones in hopes of bringing another state title to Rose Bud. “Having Joley back for another year along with everyone else we return and the newcomers coming up will make for another exciting year in Lady Rambler softball. We feel that we have the talent to compete for another state championship. She is a big part of our team and it puts a smile on all our faces knowing we have her in the lineup again for another 35 games or so. She’s truly a special player.

MaxPreps is the number-one source for all things high school sports, where rankings, rosters, highlights and stats can all be found on their website. To stay up to date with Mitchell  and the Lady Ramblers in the 2019 season, log on to today.