Kiley Jones has always found time to work on her pitching skills. This past offseason, the Portage sophomore moved her schedule around to brush up at the plate.
Entering Friday, Jones was 4-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 38 innings. At the plate, she's hitting .389 with two home runs -- the first of her softball career -- and six RBIs for the Times No. 4 Indians (6-2).
"I knew I was going to have to find time to work on both," Jones said. "Getting in some of that extra hitting has really started to pay off."
Jones started playing softball when she was in third grade, basketball even earlier than that. She skipped the hard-court season this year, figuring she needed to dedicate more time to become even better on the diamond.
"I'm good at basketball, but I was just using it to keep in condition," Jones said. "I knew softball is where I am supposed to be."
Jones has been pitching since she was 11 years old, beginning at that time to work on mound skills with aunt Kasey (Reynolds) Jones, a former Portage pitcher and member of the Indiana Softball Hall of Fame.
Added to those sessions, she attended pitching camps this past offseason with Andrean coach Brooke (Baker) Runyon and pitching coaches at Northwestern.
At the plate, she exhausted time in the backyard doing soft, side and front toss hitting drills with father Scott and younger brother Jared.
The final piece was the a fall season with the Illinois ChilL Gold traveling team.
"That was a whole new level of play," she said. "We traveled to both ends of the country and even played some international teams.
"That just increased my passion for softball."
Portage coach Lisa Hayes, also an Indiana Hall of Famer, has noticed a difference in Jones' play.
"She seems very composed now," Hayes said. "Those increased reps have seemed to really help."
And now Jones feels like she's a more-complete player. Her initial home run of her career was against Chesterton ace Megan Tymorek. The second was three-run home run in Tuesday's 4-0 win over LaPorte.
"I know how sound of pitcher (Tymorek) is," said Jones, who has been hitting at No. 5 the last few games. "It's a really cool feeling to be at the plate now. I don't have to be scared anymore.
"I realize that I can hit now, and that has really helped with my attitude and confidence."