Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 13,000 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach—a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with NCAA Women’s College World Series participants.
The NCAA Women’s College World Series begins Thursday, and while it would be foolish to predict a winner at this point, it’s safe to assume a Gatorade Softball Player of the Year will impact the outcome.
Six of the remaining eight teams have Gatorade winners on the roster, and at least half of them depend heavily on Player of the Year alumni.
Alabama goes as senior Jaclyn Traina goes. The SEC Pitcher of the Year, All-American and 2008 Gatorade Florida Softball Player of the Year is 23-3 (103-19 lifetime) with a 2.02 ERA, firing a three-hitter against Nebraska to clinch the Tide’s World Series berth.
Bama’s No. 2 pitcher, Leslie Jury (16-6, 2.83), won South Carolina POY awards in 2009, 2010 and 2011. And Gatorade equally fuels Alabama’s offense. All-American center fielder Haylie McCleney (Alabama, 2012) leads the team in average (.451), runs (67), OBP (.567) and slugging (.692). Jadyn Spencer (Iowa, 2011) paces the Tide with 12 home runs.
Kentucky followed sophomore aceKelsey Nunley (Tennessee, 2012) to its first World Series berth. Nunley set a school record for wins with 29, and has tossed every Wildcat pitch in the NCAA tournament, including 14 strong innings to beat UCLA in a doubleheader Sunday. She has a 0.87 ERA in 48.1 postseason innings.
Senior Emily Gaines (Kentucky, 2010) leads the team with a .311 average, while Griffin Joiner (Kentucky, 2011) is second on the squad with 10 home runs. Three-time Gatorade Massachusetts winner Shannon Smith is in the Kentucky bullpen.
Baylor’s top two pitchers, Whitney Canion (31-10, 1.40) and Heather Stearns (13-4, 1.69), are both former Gatorade Texas winners—Canion in 2008 and Stearns in 2012.
Florida sophomore Kelsey Stewart (Kansas, 2010) is the catalyst for the Gators’ offense, leading the team in average, runs, OBP, total bases, doubles, triples and stolen bases. Jess Damico (Missouri, 2010) is a reserve outfielder.
Oregon’s lone Gatorade winner is sophomore outfielder Alyssa Gillespie, who’s batting .376 on the season, while Sara Corbello (Louisiana, 2011) is a utility player for Louisiana-Lafayette.