Ali Adelman's legacy at SDJA remains a force
At a certain point during Ali Adelman's sophomore year at San Diego Jewish Academy, as she consistently put up cartoonish numbers from one game to the next, she started asking herself what many others quietly wondered.
Adelman virtually rewrote the San Diego County high school pitching record books, compiling a 46-7 career record with an astonishing 709 strikeouts in just 223 1/3 innings.
But she admits it was not clear even to her whether her dominance of small-school Div. V hitters would translate to success against more advanced batters.
"I knew that I could pitch," Adelman said, "but I didn't know what it meant."
Now she knows.
Adelman, SDJA's first and only Div. I scholarship player to date in any sport, is now showing her small-school success was no fluke.
Adelman is gearing up for her sophomore year at University of Connecticut after a dominant performance over the summer at Israel's Maccabi Games. Adelman shined on an international stage, garnering Best Pitcher honors and leading Team USA to a Gold Medal.
Adelman was 3-0 and allowed no runs in 17 innings at the Maccabi Games. She struck out 26 batters and allowed five hits and one walk.
Adelman, whose Lions number was retired shortly after she graduated last year, is a full class year removed from SDJA, but her legacy remains a powerful force amid a burgeoning program.
Her remarkable rise from obscurity to national prominence has transformed the culture of a school known mostly for academics, and has shattered stereotypes about Jewish athletic programs - some external, but mostly internal, SDJA Athletic Director Charlie Wund said.
SDJA is among about 60 Jewish day schools nationally and the only Jewish school fielding competitive programs in all major sports.
"She showed kids at our school what was possible," Wund said, noting that becoming a Div. I scholarship player makes Adelman somewhat of a pioneer.
"Since then, we see more kids with those aspirations because of the groundwork that she laid out," Wund said.
These days, SDJA happens to have an especially bad case of the sports bug.
The school has three seniors considered Div. I prospects.
Left-handed pitching sensation Michael Fagan, whose dominance of the Div. V baseball circuit mirrors Adelman's, was involved in several high-profile showcase events over the summer, including the Stanford Baseball Camp and the prestigious Area Code Games in Los Angeles.
Aliya Luther led Team USA's volleyball team to a Silver Medal at the Maccabi Games. Drew Ferris, who'll help SDJA transition from 8-man football to the 11-man game this year, is ranked the nation's No. 12 long snapper by chrissailorkicking.com.
Also on the school's sports watch list is sophomore soccer standout Noam Baltinester, who played for Team USA's gold medal winning team at the Maccabi Games.
The school's sports growth spurt is no accident.
SDJA last year completed a 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art sports facility that features a 15,000-square-foot gym. The facility cost an estimated $7 million, Wund said.
Adelman, who started attending SDJA in sixth grade, admits that once she got serious about pursuing a collegiate softball career, she questioned whether it was the right place to be.
But as a relative latecomer to travel ball at age 14, she admits it's unclear she'd have ever gotten the opportunity to play competitive varsity ball at bigger schools, where she'd have had to compete against more experienced pitchers for playing time.
She said pitching nearly every inning of every game built up her arm strength, an asset for a college pitcher.
Adelman was good enough while at SDJA to overmatch hitters even when she didn't have her best stuff. It was during those times that she learned to challenge herself to make herself better
She believes she's living proof that SDJA athletes shouldn't be so quick to sell themselves short when they are tapping into their athletic potential.
"At (SDJA) when I threw perfect riseballs girls would swing and miss, and in college girls swing and miss at that pitch too," she said.
Her advice to budding SDJA stars in all sports is to push themselves beyond the level of their completion.
"Try not to be good enough to get by," she said. "Use the competition because it'll benefit you. It'll make you better."