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Ducks softball standout Gillespie headed home to Hillsboro -- instead of to Women's College World Series

COURTESY: UNIVERSITY OF OREGON - Alyssa Gillespite, former Glencoe High softball player, leaves the Oregon Ducks after a solid senior season that included a team-high batting average in the NCAA playoffs.EUGENE — Alyssa Gillespie has spent a large chunk of her 23 years on the softball diamond. When she woke up Monday morning and realized college softball was no longer a part of her life, it came as a shock.

“It’s definitely a little different,” the former Oregon Ducks right fielder said.

Gillespie desperately wanted to be the Ducks' right fielder for another week. On Sunday, however, the hard-hitting Ducks hit a dry spot at the plate and dropped a pair of 2-1 games to UCLA to lose their best-of-three Eugene super regional, 3-2.

Just like that, Gillespie found herself packing for a move back home to Hillsboro instead of packing for a third straight trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.

Instead of making a run at Oregon’s first national softball title, Gillespie is preparing to interview for a job in the childhood development department at Nike’s Beaverton headquarters.

Blessed with a pleasant, easy-going personality, Gillespie – who graduated from Oregon in March -- seems well-suited to pursue her career goal of working with developmentally challenged children. The former Glencoe High star says college softball helped her develop.

“A once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Gillespie said. “I’m definitely going to be thankful.

“It was a lot of fun. It taught me a lot of things I’m going to take forward in life.

“I’m grateful for it.”

Gillespie, who redshirted as a freshman due to shoulder surgery, went out in style. She finished the season on a 10-game hitting streak and led the Ducks with a .625 batting average (10-for-16) in six NCAA tournament games.

Gillespie batted a career-high .394 for the 48-10 Ducks. She made the all-Pac-12 second team for the first time and seems likely to earn some sort of Pac-12 All-Academic honor for the fourth consecutive year.

Gillespie leaves Eugene with a .364 career average and a 3.27 cumulative GPA.

Highly successful Oregon coach Mike White, never afraid to take a gamble or three, moved Gillespie to ninth in the batting order late in the season despite the fact Gillespie was enjoying a career year batting leadoff. Instead of complaining or slumping, Gillespie kept right on hitting.

“She just had to slow the game down a little bit,” White explained. “She wasn’t happening to get on base (as much as she had been).

“She could see eight other hitters come up to the plate and see what the pitcher had. Just a little more knowledge. Put her in more of a comfort level.”

Gillespie certainly looked comfortable after the change. The lanky (5-9) blonde finished the season with career highs for on-base percentage (.435) and slugging percentage (.503).

“The No. 9 spot is kind of like another leadoff spot,” Gillespie said. “You’re kind of a sparkplug to turn the lineup over. It wasn’t that big a deal to me, honestly.”

Gillespie, a slap hitter and superb bunter, went 7 for 8 in three games at the Eugene regional to share Most Valuable Player honors at the tournament with teammate/pitcher Cheridan Hawkins.

Now the Ducks must replace those two players and six other seniors. The departees include Hawkins, Oregon’s all-time wins leader; catcher Janelle Lindvall, the Ducks’ all-time leader in home runs and runs batted in; and 2016 team batting leader Koral Costa (.412).

Key returners include two all-conference first-team picks in shortstop Nikki Udria and pitcher Megan Kleist, plus second-team second baseman Lauren Lindvall. Udria hit .405 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. Kleist posted a 17-6 record and 2.36 ERA. Lindvall, Janelle’s younger sister, batted .394.

The Ducks won the Pac-12 all four years Gillespie played, and she’s not ruling out another title run next season. Oregon’s recruiting class is ranked No. 1 by FloSoftball.com. Incoming pitchers Mirada Elish and Maggie Balint are ranked No. 1 and 4, respectively, in this year’s recruiting class.

“They may have lost eight seniors,” Gillespie said, “but there’s a lot of players with experience behind us.”

Alas, Gillespie’s college softball experience is now behind her.

The Dallas Charge of National Pro Fastpitch drafted her, but Gillespie says she’ll pass on pro ball. Her time at Oregon satisfied her softball fix.

“I’m taking away a lot more than I expected,” she said. “I had so many great experiences.”