When you look at the top players in the Class of 2024, you don’t need to scroll far to find Jayden Heavener’s name. The 15-year-old hard throwing lefty is ranked as the #11 overall prospect on Fastpitch Network and #1 prospect on Xtra Innings.
The sophomore pitcher from Pensacola, who also plays first, joined Josh Johnson’s Virginia Unity 16U team in late summer and made an immediate impact. The Johnson/Ross team which combined players from two different teams, went 25-3-2 over the fall and Heavener was spectacular. She pitched 57 innings going 11-0, surrendering just 22 hits with 116 strike outs, a 0.73 ERA and opponents hit just .117 with her on the bump. Heavener struck out 11 batters in three different games this fall.
Most softball travel organizations do not see success on a national level, and an even greater majority of them will never win a national championship within their first three years of competing. For the Virginia Unity organization those two goals of going national and winning a national championship, became reality when they won the 2017 ASA/USA Softball 18U Gold National Championship.
To genuinely appreciate the accomplishment of the Virginia Unity, you must understand just how it all started the small town of Fredericksburg in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the fall of 2014 with just one 18U level team. Josh Johnson, with the assistance of Mark Ratcliff and Ritchie Jacobs, had the vision to create a better opportunity for the talented softball players in the local area.
“I was a local high school coach getting out of education and several of the girls and parents from the high school team wanted me to continue to coach them,” stated Johnson. “I got wife’s approval and we sought out and got the best players in the area using the local paper’s All-Area team.”