Gainesville hoping to ride the arm of Alissa Humphrey to a Class 7A state softball title
By Dylan O’Shea
Twitter – @dylanoshea24
If life isn’t throwing you enough curveballs and change ups, travel to Gainesville High School to get your fix.
Alissa Humprey, a 17-year-old softball pitcher for the Gainesville Hurricanes, has you covered. Humphrey, a junior student-athlete at Gainesville, currently stands as the Hurricanes’ (17-7) leading pitcher with a startling earned-run average of 0.33 and a record of 17-4.
Chris Chronister, now in his third season as Hurricanes head coach, agrees that Humphrey is as dominant as her stats suggest.
“You know when she goes out in the circle that there’s a good chance that we’re not gonna give up more than a run or two in a game,” he said. “Usually no runs.”
For Coach Chronister and the rest of the Hurricanes, Humphrey’s dominance means a chance for the 7A state championship. Gainesville came one game away from the final four during the 2018 season, falling to Niceville High School by a score of 10-3.
Humphrey was the starting pitcher during that game, surrendering all 10 runs, five of them earned. However, this year Humphrey has lowered her ERA by 0.68 runs-per-game, and she says she hates to lose.
“I control most of the game, and I like being in control,” she said. “I’m really competitive. I hate losing, so having the control for the majority of the game is really big for me.”
Humphrey has the killer mentality Coach Chronister stresses more than anything.
“No runs are enough runs,” he said. “You need as many runs as you can get.”
For Chronister, this is how the team will best support Humphrey in the Class 7A-District 3 semifinals against a familiar foe in Vanguard High School (Ocala) on Tuesday, April 30.
Gainesville defeated Vanguard (3-18) at the same stage of the tournament just last year by a score of 4-0. Humphrey was lights-out in the 2018 contest, hurling a no-hit performance while striking out 15 batters.
High strikeout totals are not new for Humphrey, as she averages over 13 K’s for every seven innings pitched this season. She leads all of 7A in strikeouts by 80 K’s with 280 on the season. She is also third in the state of Florida, regardless of class division.
Twenty-six of those strikeouts came in what Humphrey considers to be the best game of her career, a 14 inning bout against nationally-ranked Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton).
“The Lakewood Ranch game was pretty impressive,” she said. “I was really proud about that game.”
However, Humphrey’s dominant nature doesn’t mean she isn’t prone to anxiety. She said she was as nervous as ever before the Lakewood performance.
“I was really nervous about that game,” she said. “I knew coming in they were a really strong offensive team. They had a lot of big commits and really strong offensive players.”
The greatest game of Humphrey’s career ended in a 2-0 loss, as the Hurricanes were not able to scratch together a few funs, regardless of the goose eggs Humphrey continued to throw up. The lack of run support may actually stand as more evidence of Humphrey’s
dominance in Coach Chronister’s eyes.
He says the team struggles to put together strong offensive performances with Humprey’s near-promise of a dominant game.
“Sometimes the girls get a little too comfortable with that, and they don’t feel the pressure of needing to score runs. That has caused us some problems this year where our offense seems to be a little stagnant.”
In order to have that effect on a team, Humphrey needs a lot of reps. Coach Chronister says Humphrey spends countless hours of time perfecting her craft outside of practice.
Humphrey says she mostly spends time in the cages improving the spin rate on her pitches. She says she doesn’t practice the location of her pitches as much.
During the summer months, Humphrey stays hot by playing travel ball with the Santa Fe Inferno, a softball organization for girls 18 and under who wish to play competitive softball. The Inferno ball club has been in operation in Alachua County, Florida, since 2007.
Humphrey says she has played with the Inferno for the past six years.
“We travel the country,” she said. “We’re going to Huntington Beach, Chattanooga and Atlanta. Summer prepares me for the upcoming high school season.”
Being able to stay in shape and practice year-round is why Humphrey and Coach Chronister believe she keeps improving her game.
At the end of her freshman season, Humphrey registered a 1.75 ERA and surrendered a 0.197 batting average to opposing hitters.
During her sophomore campaign, she lowered her ERA to 1.01 and her opponent batting average to 0.130.
Now, heading into the district tournament, Humprey has an aforementioned 0.33 ERA with an opponent batting average of 0.118.
Her stats have improved every year of her high school career.Humphrey’s success has garnered the interest of college scouts, including those
from Jacksonville University. She committed to the university last year.
“Going into eighth-grade summer, they really liked me,” she said. “I started going to camps, and then I finally got the offer at the beginning of my sophomore year.”
Humphrey looks to major in business once she gets to college, but she is not sure what career she wants to pursue once she graduates and hangs up her cleats.
For now, she wants to enjoy the game she loves with her teammates.
Coach Chronister says Humphrey has a good relationship with the players on the team. Chronister chuckled when explaining the team’s chemistry.
“They’re high school girls, so they all have their good days and bad days, but I think as a whole everybody on the team gets along pretty well,” he said.
He says Humphrey is included in that group of great young women.
Pitchers usually form some of their closest relationships with the catchers they play with. Humphrey’s relationship with her catcher, Briana Boggs, is no different.
Boggs, a 16-year-old sophomore, says Humphrey brings a lot of energy to the team.
“She definitely knows how to pump you up and keep you happy all of the time,” said Boggs. “Even when things go wrong she always has a level head.”
Boggs says she brings that same energy as a friend.
“As a friend, she’s really funny,” she said. “She’s really sarcastic. You’ve just gotta laugh it off sometimes.”
All laughing and jokes aside, it’s about wins for Humphrey, Coach Chronister, Boggs and the rest of the team when the tournament rolls around.
While Coach Chronister says winning is a team effort, it’s quite obvious the Hurricanes rely on the right arm of Humphrey.
So far, Humphrey has carried the weight of this reliance.
The only things she’s dropped so far this season are her killer breaking balls.