Sports

They were stars in the Merced County area and now these young people are making big waves

University of Missouri sophomore Cassie Gasper pitches against Texas A&M Aggies at Mizzou Softball Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, April 20, 2019. 
Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics
University of Missouri sophomore Cassie Gasper pitches against Texas A&M Aggies at Mizzou Softball Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics

Cassie Gasper seems to be making the adjustment to Division I softball.

The former El Capitan High and Merced College standout has settled in as the No. 2 pitcher for the University of Missouri and been a consistent arm for the Tigers. Gasper is 11-5 this season with a 2.47 ERA. The sophomore has pitched just under 91 innings.

“I’m happy with how I’m doing, but I always think I can do better,” Gasper said.

Gasper has had to adjust on and off the softball field. One of the biggest adjustments has been the weather in Missouri.

“This winter we had the worst snow storm here in 25 years,” Gasper said. “Of course it would happen the year I move here. We had like 20 inches of snow. Practicing in the cold isn’t fun, but we do a lot of work indoors.”

Gasper transferred to Missouri after posting a 15-10 record and a 1.65 ERA for Merced College last season. She struck out 208 batters in 186 innings.

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Missouri sophomore Cassie Gasper delivers a pitch against Tennessee Tennessee on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The former El Capitan High and Merced College standout is 11-5 with a 2.47 ERA for the Tigers this season. Emily Johnson/Mizzou Athletics

Gasper’s first outing for the Tigers (27-18) came in the second game of the season against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. Gasper went the distance against the No. 12 team in the nation, recording a four-hit shutout in an 8-0 win by the Tigers.

“That first week out in Arizona, I was nervous against ASU,” Gasper said. “That was my first time pitching for Mizzou. After the game was over, I was relieved. We got a win.”

The performance showed Gasper she belongs. She proved to herself that she can compete at the highest level of college softball.

Gasper has thrown six compete games this season and she’s only surrendered more than three earned runs in one of her 15 starts.

Like many girls growing up on the softball diamond, playing college softball has always been a dream. So far, the dream is everything Gasper wanted.

“It’s definitely living up to it,” she said. “I’m having a lot of fun. There’s nothing like competing at the highest level. I love to compete.”

Here’s a quick look at how some other local players are doing:

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Former Merced High star Madilyn Nickles has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks for UCLA. Photo by Rand Bleimeister/UCLA Athletics. Rand Bleimeister

Madilyn Nickles, UCLA — The former Gatorade National Player of the Year and Merced High star has been racking up accolades this season for the Bruins. Nickles was just named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second straight week after hitting .700 with two home runs, five runs scored and seven RBIs in a three-game sweep of Oregon State.

Nickles leads the No. 2 ranked Bruins with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs to go along with a .396 batting average.

McKenzie Schumacher, Dominican University — Gasper’s former teammate at El Capitan is putting up another good season for the Penguins. Schumacher is hitting .363 with 20 stolen bases. The speedster has an on-base percentage of .415 and is second on the team with 22 runs scored.

Katie Bettis, Notre Dame de Namur — The former Atwater High standout is hitting .289 for the Argonauts. Bettis has thrown 97 innings this season in the circle.

Kiara Azevedo, Cal State Bakersfield — The former Los Banos ace is 6-5 with a 4.61 ERA for the Road Runners this season. The freshman left-hander has struck out 39 batters in just over 71 innings pitched.

Avery Fitch, Cal State Bakersfield — The former Chowchilla star has made 23 appearances in the circle for the Road Runners this season. Fitch is 3-5 with a 3.58 ERA.

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