First-year pitcher delivers stellar performance in March

Wildcat first-year pitcher Haley Gilham takes a practice pitch during a game on Feb. 12 against the University of Hawaii. Photo credit: John Domogma

When first-year pitcher Haley Gilham is not busy with school or trying to be a part of the K-9 police unit, she is on the mound showing opponents that she is the new sheriff in town.

Gilham, a criminal justice major, has been untouchable lately. Since March 6, she has posted a 9-2 record, including a streak of 31.1 straight innings without allowing a run.

“Sometimes you don’t know how a freshman is going to respond in pressure situations,” said Angel Shamblin, Chico State softball’s head coach. “But she’s really picked it up in the second half of our season.”

Gilham’s scoreless innings streak was broken on March 27 against Central Washington, but she said that it was never a distraction for her.

“I didn’t think about it when I was pitching,” Gilham said. “I was kind of shocked at how many innings I had gone.”

Gilham also won in six consecutive starts from March 14 to March 28.

In the 60.1 innings she threw, she gave up 37 hits, 13 walks and only six earned runs while striking out 39 hitters.

Not even fourth-ranked Cal State Monterey Bay could score a run on her when they came to town.

“My favorite part of the season was to win against Monterey Bay knowing they were high ranked,” Gilham said. “And winning the series was pretty cool.”

Gilham threw two consecutive complete game shutouts against the Otters on March 20 and 21. She struck out six batters in each game and only allowed a total of seven hits and four walks.

Gilham’s incredible run in March has improved her season record to 12-5 overall and brought her ERA down from a 3.65 to 1.71.

In 86 innings she pitched this spring, she has only allowed 21 walks, while striking out 49 batters. Opposing batters are hitting a mere .211 against her.

Gilham also leads the team in the most pitching categories, including ERA, wins, complete games, innings pitched, hits, walks and runs.

“I definitely didn’t expect to have this much success this early,” she said. “I’m only successful because of my team. They’re the ones that are hitting and fielding ground balls.”

Junior first baseman Desiree Gonzalez feels that Gilham has gelled with the team well as a freshman, she said.

“We actually did a team bonding thing where she took us up to her family’s ranch up here with horses,” Gonzalez said. “She’s really opened up to us.”

Despite all her pitching accomplishments, including winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s Pitcher of the Week, Gilham said it’s her team bonding that she is most proud of.

“I’ve never been on a team that’s been able to be so close-knit on the field,” she said.

Gilham and junior pitcher Brooke Langeloh have combined as the team’s one-two punch. They have helped lead the team to a 20-10 record.

Graduating in 2014 from Norco High School, Gilham is no stranger to winning. In 2012, her team won the Division I California Interscholastic Federation state and national championships.

After that season, Gilham would go on to play with a traveling softball team in her junior and senior year.

During that time, Gilham would develop her own pregame rituals that start off with taking an ibuprofen then warming up with just the catcher for a certain amount of pitches.

Once she feels warmed up, one of her teammates stands in the box, and she throws a couple more times.

Shamblin said she has been most impressed with Gilham’s calm demeanor on the mound this season.

“She’s always willing to take on any challenge,” Shamblin said. “She’s not afraid of anything.”

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.