Jayda Coleman was 8 years old when her parents, Deana, The Colony head softball coach, and Cedric, took her to the Women’s College World Series for the first time.
Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon and Deana and Cedric had just finished eating lunch. They had grabbed a bite before continuing the three-hour drive north to Oklahoma City.
It is the eve of the opening round of the NCAA Women’s College World Series, and Deana and Cedric will be in attendance at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium at 11 a.m. Thursday when four-time national champion Oklahoma will open tournament play against James Madison.
This time around, Jayda will not be in the stands at USA Hall of Fame Stadium. Instead, she’ll be on the field and will most likely make the start in center field for the Sooners.
"I can't explain it," Deana said. "I'm like, 'What a dream. She's living out a dream that is incredible.' We still can't believe that we can watch Jayda play in the World Series. It's just incredible."
It’s a dream that has come through a lot of hard work.
As early as 10 years old, Cedric and Deana would hold batting practice sessions with Jayda at The Colony High School at 1 p.m. almost every day in July.
"It was 100-something (degrees) out there and either I would pitch to her or her dad would pitch to her and let her hit batting practice," Deana said. "Coach (Rudy) Rangel was in his office and he was just like, 'Y'all hit all of the time.' And we're like, 'Yeah, that's what it takes.'"
Jayda has also made plenty of personal sacrifices on her way to being the No. 1 consensus recruit in the nation for the Class of 2020, including giving up trick-or-treating one year on Halloween to travel to Florida for a softball tournament in which she would receive exposure from several major college softball programs.
Jayda has been used to playing in tournaments across the country since an early age – and not only competing, but winning, too.
In her first few years of playing softball, Jayda was on a select team coached by Rafael Denson that won two national championships. Another year, Cedric and Ladd Freeman coached a select team that Jayda played on that competed in a championship game in the Premier Girls FastPitch national championships in California. Later, when Jayda competed on a Texas Glory club team that was coached by Kevin Shelton, she won a national title in a tournament in Kansas City.
Then, of course, came Jayda’s freshman year. The Colony topped Willis, 5-2, to win the 2017 UIL Class 5A state championship at Red McCombs Field in Austin. Two years later, the Lady Cougars made it all the way to the state semifinals.
“(Jayda) always just works and works and works to be able to stay there,” Deana said. “She has never had this attitude of, 'We won this tournament, so we're good. It's about work, work, work, so I can stay where I'm at. I don't want to be knocked off."
Jayda hasn’t been knocked out of the batting order since she stepped foot into the batter’s box in her first-ever collegiate game on Feb. 11 in El Paso.
After posting a whopping .702 batting average with 279 hits, 261 runs scored and 209 stolen bases during her prep career, Coleman, a three-time MaxPreps first team All-American, picked up where she left off.
In her first collegiate at-bat, Coleman hit an RBI single to left field and proceeded to steal second base on an error, capping off a 12-run first inning for the Sooners against UTEP. Three innings later, she hit a solo home run over the center field wall. She finished 4-for-5 with 2 RBIs and 4 runs scored. OU won the game, 29-0.
"She's never been about, 'Oh my God, I want to hit a home run. I'm trying to hit a home run,'" Deana said. "But, that opening game, she was like, 'Please get out. Please get out.' I thought that was funny because that was her reaction."
For the season, Jayda has hit .469 with 67 hits, 67 runs, 19 stolen bases and has struck out just eight times in 143 plate appearances. Coleman was one of three players in the country who were nominated for the NFCA Freshman of the Year, along with Sooners teammate Tiare Jennings and Clemson’s Valerie Cagle. Jennings won the award.
Deana said that Jayda has handled her success with humility and a team-first attitude.
"She's done an awesome job, and I think that it's because of the people that she's surrounded by," Deana said. "Those kids, Jocelyn Alo, and them they have been there before. Nicole Mendes. Lynnsie Elam. And they're great leaders and great people. When you're surrounded by that, you learn so quick about what is given to you and go with it."
Coleman told OUDaily on April 30 that her goal is to win a national title. Oklahoma will have to defeat a field that included James Madison, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Alabama, Florida State and defending champion UCLA in order to lift the title for the fifth time in school history. And, both Cedric and Deana will be there every step of the way.
“We told her, 'I don't care what happens,’” Deana said. “’We don't care what you do. You could go 0-fer. We're just so proud of you and what you've accomplished.’"