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Former Texas IF Janae Jefferson wins Player of the Year in first year with Smoke

Janae Jefferson may not wear burnt orange anymore, but she’s still smacking softballs around Austin.

In her first year with the Texas Smoke, the former Longhorn was selected as the Women’s Professional Fastpitch league’s player of the year. The infielder hit .438 on the season with a .523 slugging percentage and a .580 on-base percentage. She led the Smoke to the WPF playoffs in the team’s first season.

This kind of level should be unsurprising from Jefferson, a four-time All-American infielder who’s Texas’ career leader in batting average (.431), and powered the Longhorns to a runner-up finish in the 2022 College World Series.

Professional softball leagues are rare in the United States, the birthplace of the sport that, ironically, offers just the slightest of options for the game’s best players. Before joining the Smoke, Jefferson played for Athletes Unlimited, a professional league founded in 2020.

Since leaving Texas, Jefferson has played for the U.S. national team and conducted a variety of camps across the nation between workouts in her hometown of Humble just north of Houston in order to supplement her salary with the Smoke. One of Jefferson’s hopes is to earn a contract in Japan, one of the only leagues in the world that offers a sustainable salary as a professional softball player.

Regardless, the Smoke has a legitimate chance to win it all this year. Their playoff series with the SIS Vipers is this week.

“Overall, I want to just have a healthy and successful season,” Jefferson said. “Playing in Japan is definitely a goal, but if I’m still at the Texas Smoke (next year), that’d be a lot of fun, too. I’d definitely want to come back and do this again.”

Read the original article on Austin American-Statesman