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Wildcat’s softball all-time leader in wins signs on to play overseas

Chico State pitcher Haley Gilham has been named CCAA conference pitcher of the week five times this season, 11 times in her career and will be heading to Neatherlands following graduation. Photo credit: Kate Angeles

After four years dominating in the circle for the Chico State softball team, the Wildcats all-time leader in wins, Haley Gilham, has committed to continuing her pitching career in the Netherlands following graduation.

The reigning California Collegiate Athletic Association pitcher of the year was not ready to hang up her cleats just yet as she has signed on to play for the Dutch team Roef, a part of the Dutch Golden League. She will depart once the softball season comes to an end and she officially graduates.

Gilham got the opportunity thanks to her former catcher at Chico State Brynn Lesovsky. Lesovsky’s sister played overseas and let Brynn know that there was a need for a pitcher and Gilham was the first name that came to mind. Lesovsky was Gilham’s catcher her freshman and sophomore year before Lesovsky graduated in 2016. The pitcher and catcher remain close and stay in touch even after Lesovsky graduated, despite Lesovsky living in Sacramento.

During her time at Chico State, Gilham has developed a reputation as a shutdown pitcher. But she’s actually had some success at the plate as well. She’s totaled four home runs in her career as a Wildcat.

“Hitting is fun. I have my job, which is pitching and hitting is just kinda like a bonus so I like to take advantage of my opportunities when I am at bat,” Gilham said.

Gilham will continue her role as a starting pitcher when she joins Roef, but the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of her being used as a hitter.

Gilham hasn’t always been just a pitcher. It wasn’t until the summer between her sophomore and junior year at Norco High School when she fully committed to pitching. Before then, she played third base and right field as well as pitcher.

Gilham credits the switch to pitching full time to coach Larry Mays.

“He was the one that actually gave me the whole dynamics to make a really good pitcher,” said Gilham. “I used to have three hour (pitching) lessons with him each week. It was crazy.”

She saw pitching as an easy way in because at the time she was being recruited, many schools needed it.

One person Gilham has always had a special relationship with is her father. He coached and managed her teams since she was eight years old and has always loved to see her pitch. His support helped propel Gilham towards pitching despite her love of hitting and playing other positions on the field.

“My softball hero and inspiration would probably be my dad. He is the one that has always pushed me… It’s always nice to be able to call up my dad if something is wrong and have someone to talk to.”

At most home games, you can find her support system behind home plate. Her mom, dad, boyfriend and her dad’s dog, Hannah, are usually there cheering her on. Her dad can always offer advice if she needs it and the rest of the crew are her cheerleaders, according to Gilham.

“If something goes wrong, I can go to my dad,” Gilham said. “My mom and boyfriend are my hype men and tell me how good I am which is nice to hear too.”

With still 12 more games left on the year, Gilham is already having a standout year and can add several more to the long list of accolades.

Wildcats pitcher Haley Gilham brings a level of intensity to the circle that she says she gets because of her hate of losing. Photo credit: Alex Grant
  • First in single season wins, 23, 2017
  • First in career wins, 73, 2015-present
  • Second in career strikeouts, 457, 2015-present
  • Second in complete games, 75, 2015-present
  • Five-time CCAA pitcher of the week this season
  • 11 time CCAA pitcher of the week in her career
  • Currently leads the CCAA in wins, complete games and shutouts
  • Her nine shutouts leads the nation
  • Second in CCAA in ERA and innings pitched

Gilham has had nine shutouts this year, two shy of the single-season record at Chico State. She’s totaled 25 career shutouts which is just two shy of the program’s history of 27.

What record is Gilham most proud of?

“I’m really proud of breaking the all-time wins record. That is huge,” she said. “Plus, to be able to break it early on in my senior season means it will be around for that much longer.”

Gilham does not refer to herself as a strikeout pitcher but rather a ground ball pitcher. She credits her defense to her special bond with her catchers at Chico State, Brynn Lesovsky, Lorren “Lo” Sharp and, this year, Claire Wayne.

“Our catchers make us look good. They get us the strikes while our defense makes us look good,” Gilham said. “My team is the one that gives me all the glory. Even though it’s my name on the win, it’s the team that actually wins.”

Claire Wayne, Gilham’s catcher for her senior year, is excited to see what her battery mate will do next.

“She’s going to kill it. People don’t know what’s coming yet. I really think she’s worked so hard for this,” Wayne said. “I’m gonna miss her. I wish I could have the opportunity to catch her my senior year.”

After a one-hitter in the season opener and another Feb. 17 against Cal State San Marcos where she struck out a season-high 11 batters, she’s developed the reputation as the “queen of one-hitters”, a name coined by her family.

On March 9, Gilham got her first career no-hitter, striking out 10 batters and finishing two walks short of a perfect game for a 4-0 victory at home.

This day was a long time coming for Gilham who cannot remember ever throwing one before.

Gilham said that it was beginning to become a joke amongst her family and peers that she couldn’t get that one hit past her. It was the Wildcats’ second no-no of the year, as pitcher Naomi Monahan also threw one, her’s against Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 10.

Chico State’s pitching has been a huge part of the success of its 35-3 softball team, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation for Division II. The Wildcats are 25-3 in the CCAA and are ranked first.

Haley Gilham summed up her senior year and what she will miss most by reminiscing about her team and her senior year.

“This year has been an amazing year. For my senior year, the winning is great, but the people on this team are friends you have for life,” Gilham said. “I am definitely going to miss being out on the field. If there is any way I could’ve asked to go out, this is it.”

The Wildcats wrap up its home schedule with a four-game series starting Friday with a doubleheader at noon against Sonoma State at University Softball Field. The series finishes with a doubleheader starting at noon on Saturday.

To keep up with Gilham along her next leg of her softball journey, follow her on Facebook or on Roefs website.

Justin Couchot can be reached at [email protected] or @JCouchot_Sports on Twitter.

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