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Lifelong Teammates & Friends: Meet 2024 Grads & Elite Pitching Duo Jenna Martin & Grace Churchill


By: Denny Lang


Spring, 2013.


A very excited converted baseball player named Grace was attending her first softball practice as a new member of the Aurora Diggers. She was introduced to her new Coach Todd Martin, his daughter Jenna, and the rest of the team.


Nothing out of the ordinary, (if one considers playing for a softball hall-of-famer “normal”) and as the first few weeks went by the new softballer became more and more involved, enjoying her transition to the sport and her new group of friends.


Jenna (L) and Grace (R) circa 2014



At about the two-month mark Grace- who was enthralled watching the team’s best pitcher Jenna do her thing toeing the rubber- made a statement that would set in motion a remarkable 10-year journey:


“Coach Todd,”


“Yes, Grace?”


“I want to learn how to pitch.”


The rest was, and is, truly something to see.


Under the pitching tutelage of ISC legend Todd, along with his prized pupil and former Syracuse star Jenna Caira, Jenna and Grace learned and honed their craft from two of the very best instructors the country has to offer.


Todd Martin and Jenna Caira



“This isn’t fair, you have two number one pitchers.”




As the saying goes, if only we had a nickel for every time that statement has been made.


Two number ones maybe, but the differences between the two far outweigh the similarities.


One righty, one lefty.


One classic power pitcher, the other focusing on elite spin and precision.


One delivers a classic 12-6 crippling changeup, one has an equally devastating 3-7 spinner version.


One focuses on drop balls, the other curveballs.


(Maybe it isn’t fair after all…)


Grace and Jenna, Mississauga North Tigers USSSA World Series 2017



The advantage to having this electric duo available under any format (starter/reliever, starter/starter) has produced a total of 15 Canada and US tournament wins during the team’s run as a top team in their age group in the province of Ontario.


Internal competition within a team dynamic is essential to moving the talent and success needles. On the diamond positions typically have an established starter and backup, and rarely do those roles permanently invert. Selecting and replacing a pitcher is a constant, and there is also a pecking order based on ability. While having two pitchers with elite skillsets on the same team- both of whom would be an ace of the staff on many opposing teams- would appear to be “unfair”, a healthy competitive dynamic could turn into a toxic rivalry with ease.


Jenna (L) and Grace (R) 2018 Ontario Provincial Champions



Exposure-type based articles tend to focus- and rightfully so- on stats, measurables, accomplishments, and goals. These two possess elite stats and measurables, numerous accomplishments, and share the same ultimate NCAA goal.


Jenna and Grace 2018 (Michigan USSSA Elite Select)



A deeper dive into the relationship these two have developed over their careers, however, may in fact be their best measurable. To say that Jenna and Grace “have each other’s back” would be a massive understatement.


Over the years there have been the ups and downs that affect everyone, times where one was having more success than the other, and too many in-game replacements for the other to count.


Grace and Jenna 2019 U14 Canadian Nationals Grace- Halton Hawks 2005

(Silver medalist) Jenna- LaSalle Athletics 2005



At every stage, every up and every down, there has been no bigger fan than their pitching counterpart.


Staunchly loyal.


Supportive.


Encouraging.


Raising each other’s abilities to their maximum through healthy competition.


Spending most of each other’s Spring and Summer touring the US in the back of a Coach’s truck talking for hours, staying in hotels, dinners, parties, and on the diamond.


2021 Aurora Diggers/Ontario Elite teammate Jacqueline Vona Jenna Grace (wearing Jenna Caira’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics Team Canda bronze medal) Jenna Caira



“Fix it”, is how the ball is handed to the other when one is having a rare off day.


Frustrated?


Definitely.


-But also accepting of the fact that the move is in the team’s best interest, and the best person is taking over the reins.


Jenna and Grace Team Ontario Elite tryouts 2021



Over a 10-year span both have played for 4 different teams, with 3 of them being together.


The exception was 2019, where Jenna was selected 1st overall in a supplementary draft for qualifying Ontario teams to compete on the Canadian Nationals stage. Grace went 3rd, to a different team doing the same. Both made immediate positive impacts on their respective teams and were rewarded with repeated starts as a result.


In Ontario Elite uniforms



In 2017 both were selected by the Mississauga North Tigers as pickup players to compete in a USSSA world series event in Indiana.


In 2021 both were chosen to represent Ontario as part of an elite program competing in US showcase events.


Currently they are continuing their run with the Aurora Diggers 18U program, also focused on US showcase events and tournaments with the ultimate goal of competing in the NCAA.


Jenna enjoys a warmer climate, hoping to attend a school in the southern states.


Grace enjoys a cooler climate, hoping to attend a school in the northeast.


Their differences set them apart.


But at the core are two softball sisters who would do anything for each other; truly having that “friend in me”.


With teammate Tanya Limbani



Contact Information


Jenna Martin

DOB 06/16/2006

GPA 3.7

jenna.martin2919@gmail.com

Twitter: @Jenna29er



Grace Churchill

DOB 07/01/2006

GPA 4.0

gracechurchill71@gmail.com

Twitter: @GraceC_2024



Todd Martin

Head Coach:

Aurora Diggers 18U (2013-current)

Ontario Elite (2021-2022)

Pitching instructor (1996-current)

todd.martin29@gmail.com


Jenna Caira

Syracuse University

Canadian National Team

Pitching instructor (2004-current)



Photo Album










Legacy & Legends Softball, Denny Lang, February 16, 2023


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