As Janessa Bassett steps up to the plate, shouts of “cheetah” can be heard from the Dixie State University dugout.
Janessa Bassett, a senior biology major from Stansbury Park, is better known by her teammates and fans as “cheetah,” a nickname that roots back to third grade of elementary school. During the presidential physical fitness testing, her friend did not complete the mile run portion of the test under the given time. Bassett ran with her friend on her second attempt, helping her finish in time, and her friend’s mom later commented she ran like a cheetah. Bassett ended up playing softball with her friend’s younger sister that summer, and the mom proceeded to tell the team Janessa’s nickname was cheetah.
That nickname stuck with Bassett and can be constantly heard from the stands and dugout during DSU softball games.
“She is probably one of the best players [who] has ever played softball here,” head coach Randy Simkins said about Bassett. “And also probably one of the most humble persons you’ll ever be around; she is always looking for, ways to try and get better.”
Bassett attended Stansbury High School. There Bassett went on to earn four varsity letters and win two straight 3A state championships. She was named a Max Preps All-American her senior season in 2014.
Teammate Alyssa Arslanian, a junior exercise science major from Tooele, and Bassett were once on rival teams, playing against one another multiple times a year in high school.
“I hated playing against her,” Arslanian said. “She could beat you with her power but also playing small ball and using her speed. It’s such a privilege to play with her now. She is a great team leader along with [being a] tremendous hitter and outfielder.”
Bassett verbally committed to play softball at DSU her sophomore year of high school. While receiving no other offers from colleges due to her verbal commitment, during her senior year she was approached by the University of Utah and Purdue University about potentially coming to play at those institutions but chose to stand by her verbal commitment to DSU.
“When I came to my first tournament [in St. George] I was with my dad in the car and told him I could live here,” Bassett said. “When I got the offer from DSU, everything just fell into place. I could have gone to the [University of Utah] and gotten a great education, but I never would have been able to have the experiences I’ve had here.”
During her time her at DSU, Bassett has been named to the All-Pacific West Conference first team in her first three seasons, along with being named PacWest Freshman of the Year in the 2015 season and Defensive Player of the Year in the 2017 season.
Bassett was also named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II Freshman of the Year in the 2015 season and was a top 25 finalist for player of the year in 2016 and 2017.
The record for the most stolen bases (118), the most triples (21) and the most runs (189) in a career at DSU all belong to Bassett. She is currently in possession of the best batting average in a career at .445. Bassett started the season within reach of a few career record could overtake, which includes hits, walks and total bases. To become the all-time leader in these respective categories she would need 14 hits, 20 walks and 53 more total bases.
As for single season records at DSU, Bassett is second all time for batting average in a season with a .474 batting average (2016) and holds the record for most runs scored (81, 2015), and triples (12, 2015). Bassett has lead her team in batting average, triples and stolen bases each of her first three seasons.
Bassett has already been named preseason PacWest Player of the Year in 2018 and the NFCA National Player of the Year watch list for 2018. Her play during the first week of this season earned her both PacWest Player of the Week and the NFCA Division II player of the week.
Bassett had a .500 batting average, on Feb. 11, with 12 hits, 15 runs, 13 runs batted in, two triples, six stolen bases and five home runs in the span of seven games.
Bassett is a senior biology major and presented at the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research on Feb. 9 about her research she performed in the summer of 2017 on the Zion Canyon Tree Frog. After graduating in the spring, she plans on applying for pharmacy school. As the games remaining in her senior season continue to decrease, she said she is trying to focus on enjoying everything that happens.
“More than anything I just want to have fun,” Bassett said. “I’ve worked really hard to get here, and now I just want to enjoy it.”