Good lead-off hitters are hard to find, but Oregon has a dandy in Alyssa Gillespie. Lead-off batters are vital to sparking an effective offense. Their mission: be aggressive and get on base at all costs; hit, bunt, get hit by a pitch, earn a walk; just get to first base. When the bases are empty, Gillespie is a slap hitter reminiscent of Mariner All-Star, Ichiro. She throws right-handed, but bats left-handed and with her slap technique; she’s already two steps down the first base line before making contact with the ball. Her speed and good eye make her a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Gillespie isn’t merely a slapper; when runners are on base, she will stand flat-footed and hit with power. For her career, she’s batting .371 with an even dozen doubles and six homers. Last season she had an on-base percentage of .405.
The best hitters in the number one slot are aggressive base runners; think of Dodger Maury Wills who notched 104 stolen bases to break Ty Cobb‘s 47-year-old record of 96. Gillespie hasn’t reached Wills’ proficiency yet, but she’s aggressive on the base pads and stole 10 bases last year on 14 attempts. Gillespie normally plays in either right or center field. Last year she was a perfect fielder, no errors with excellent speed and range. Her climb-the-wall catch against UCLA has become an Internet sensation.
Good all around college athletes tend to be smart in the classroom and Gillespie is no exception. A business major, she was a Academic All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention her freshman year. She’s a 5’9″, tall and lean, a home-grown junior, from Hillsboro Oregon.
The relationship between Oregon and Gillespie is beneficial for both. Oregon gets the catalyst to start their offense and she plays the game she loves. In an interview with Oregon Live, she said of her trip to the College World Series:
“It’s unexplainable,” she said. “It’s a dream to play there when you are a little girl. To have almost 10,000 fans watching you -, it was pretty amazing.”
Oregon fans hope that she and the Ducks will earn a return trip this year. The journey continues Sunday at 11 am at Howe Field, weather permitting.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks