There are performances in high school sports that can make fans turn their heads and remain glued to the action.
Then there are those that are simply stunning, that leave those in attendance left in a state of speechless amazement of what they just witnessed.
Jessie Gilbert had a performance such as that on Thursday evening.
In an exhibit of pitching dominance likely to be felt in softball circles across the nation, the Wildcats sophomore right-hander forever etched her name in the school, state and national record books, striking out an astonishing 22 Onalaska Loggers in a 6-3 victory in Onalaska.
The incredible mark breaks the school record of 15, which Gilbert held with former Wildcats Annika Hollingsworth, Jody Pope and Shelby Pase.
Furthermore, her 22 strikeouts is a Washington state record and ties for fourth on the all-time national list for strikeouts in a seven-inning softball game according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Gilbert is tied with seven others on the all-time list and is one strikeout better than three-time gold medalist and current UCLA associate head coach Lisa Fernandez, putting the Wildcats hurler in legendary company.
“I was in pure shock,” Gilbert said upon hearing the news of her school record. “I asked my coach (Barbara Rasmus), ‘How many strikeouts did I get today? Did I get more than 10?’ And she said, ‘You got way more than 10. You got every out of the game.’”
Gilbert had a similar reaction upon hearing the news that her accomplishment is a (currently unofficial) state record and ranks fourth all time in the nation.
“Oh jeez, we had no idea,” she said. “I think it’s crazy awesome. This is a new, exciting feeling I’ve never felt before and I wouldn’t say I feel more accomplished, but more confident.”
Using a combination of fastballs, curveballs with a few change-ups mixed in, Gilbert struck out the side in every inning, recording every out in the game via the strikeout.
But it was in no way an easy victory for the Wildcats as the two teams were locked in a 1-1 tie at the end of two innings.
Ocosta broke through with three runs in the top of the third when Gilbert helped herself by driving in infielder Brynn Rasmus with a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead and got some insurance when two subsequent Onalaska errors led to two insurance runs.
The Wildcats would take a 6-1 lead in the fifth on a Gabby Ness RBI double followed by another unearned run crossing the plate due to a Loggers error.
The Loggers, which found a way to scratch across their first run of the game when Kia Sandridge scampered home on a steal in the bottom of the second, scored a run in the fifth on a Randi Haight double and a run in the sixth on an error.
With two outs in the sixth inning, a dropped third strike allowed Sandridge to reach first. A walk followed by an Ocosta error allowed a run to score to make it a 6-3 game.
But Gilbert bore down to strikeout Kate Zandell on four pitches, ending the threat and giving her a rare four-strikeout inning.
Gilbert allowed a two-out single to Desi Smith in the seventh before whiffing Taylor Babb for her record-setting 22nd strikeout and picking up the season-opening victory.
Ocosta had eight hits in the game, led by catcher Noel Cuzdey (2-4, R), right fielder Gabby Ness (1-3, 2B, RBI) and Gilbert (2-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI).
Five of the Cats’ six runs in the game were unearned, thanks in large part to six Loggers errors.
Gilbert threw 114 pitches – 83 for strikes — and allowed one earned run on two hits with two walks and the jaw-dropping 22 strikeouts, which will likely hold up as an Ocosta school record for several decades to come — unless Gilbert finds a way to break it herself.
As improbable as that feat may sound, Gilbert has the belief that 23 strikeouts – or tying the national record at 24 — is attainable.
“It’s possible for sure,” she said. “Trust in yourself and trust in your team. Have all the confidence in the world and go out there and do your best.”
When asked what she attributes her success to, Gilbert said it has been the instruction and support of her travel ball coaches, Ocosta coaches Rasmus and Mekenna Fletcher, and the support of her family, particularly her father, William Gilbert.
“He’s been there since Day 1,” Gilbert said. “He was the first one to really get me into it. He’s my first catcher. He was the first one there to really push me. He wants me to be my best and I thank him for that.”
Ocosta 103 020 0 – 6 8 2
Onalaska 010 011 0 – 3 2 6
WP: Gilbert (7 IP, 3 R, ER, 2 H, 22 K, 2 BB). LP: Liddell (7 IP, 6 R, ER, 8 H, 9 K, 3 BB).
Leading hitters: Ocosta – Gilbert (2-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI); Cuzdey (2-4, R); Rosander (1-4, R); Schlegel (1-4, 2B, R); Ness (1-3, 2B, RBI). Onalaska – Smith (1-3, R), Height (1-3, 2B).