By Doug Gorman
Mt. Vernon Christian Academy softball player Jessie Bailey didn't have to look too far when it came time for her to choose a college.
The talented pitcher and infielder watched her sister Samantha go through the recruiting process just last year before deciding to sign with Mississippi State.
When the recruiting battled for Jessie finally ended, Mississippi State was also a perfect fit.
So Wednesday afternoon, in a ceremony in front of family, friends and classmates, Jessie agreed to join her sister at the SEC school by signing with the Lady Bulldogs. The Bailey sisters are the first two Mt. Vernon athletes to sign Division I scholarships.
Mississippi State won out over schools such as Auburn, Alabama and Illinois for Jesse's services.
“She started getting letters two or three years ago,” said Jody Bailey, the father Samantha and Jessie. “We knew she would go somewhere to play ball, we just weren't sure where she might get the opportunity. She spent the last three years going to exposure camps and playing all over the nation, so that all helped.”
Getting to see both of their daughters play Division I softball at the same school is a thrill for Jessie and Samantha's parents.
“We are real excited about it that they can go and play together,” said Denise Bailey, their mother. “It's going to make it a lot easier on us with both of them attending the same school, but we are real proud of both of them.”
Jessie said, watching her sister get recruited last year by several major colleges helped her know what to expect.
“Sam being at Mississippi State already was a big plus,” Jesse said.
Jessie's dream to play college softball has been in the works for years. Jessie started playing the slow-pitch version of the game early in elementary school, and converted to the fast-pitch game when she was 9. Now, for more almost a decade, she has played on some of the state's top traveling teams during the summer.
“That (playing travel ball) was probably the biggest asset in helping me get recruited” she said. “That's where I got most of my exposure. We would go play in college showcases, and I went to a lot of different camps also.”
Mt. Vernon Christian Academy is a member of the Georgia Christian Athletic Association and plays its high school season in the spring, but in her first three years a member of the Lady Crusaders, Jesse has compiled a long list of accolades, including being a member of last year's state championship and the MVP of the tournament.
She was also the Mt. Vernon MVP in 2004. Jessie has also played on state champion basketball and volleyball teams at Mt. Vernon. She has also been nominated for the Wendy's High School Heisman Award.
Jesse has also accomplished plenty of accolades in the classroom as a member of school's National Honor Society. She is also a member of Who's Who Among American High School Students.
No one who has watched Jessie's softball career progress is surprised she is moving on to the next level.
“She is overall, so athletic,” said Lisa Kemme, Jessie's private pitching instructor. “She is actually very natural and easy to work with.”
Laurie Sheppard, Jessie's hitting instructor agreed.
“She is just a great athlete and she works extremely hard,” said Sheppard. “When you put those two things together, great things are going to happen.”