By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– About halfway through West Salem’s Aliyah Wilsey’s Sophomore year, something just switched. Like a light-switch, she realized and started to believe in herself.
As she signed her Letter of Intent to pitch and play in the outfield at Clackamas Community College Sunday afternoon in West Salem, her self-confidence has improved with the help of her coaches from her freshman year to now.
“It very exciting for me because I’ve grown so much these past two years. Like more than I would have ever thought of. Not just growing as a softball player, but as a person as well,” Wilsey starts. “I put a lot of work into it, but thanks to Eric Benson, Ty Nicohlson, Chelsea Qualls, Marie Scott I wouldn’t be where I am without any of them. All of them have been in my corner and helping to push me to be who I am and believing in me.
“I’ve been playing softball since I could walk and just to see all of these years of work, passion, effort and tears, finally getting this goal, it’s so exciting. I’m so excited for this next chapter of this.”
It was that sophomore year, having Sage Barnes come over to mellow her out from third as well as Jenny Ball in the infield, both helping the young pitcher believe in herself as the Titans reached the 6A opening round against Westview. Going 16-12 overall and 11-3 overall in the Mountain Valley Conference, finishing second and two-games behind MVC-winning McNary.
“In High School Ball, having Sage Barnes come up to me from third base and calm me down. Having Jenny be like, ‘I got you, you got this. We have your back’, that means everything in the world,” said Wilsey. “When your defense is with you and expressing themselves that they have your back. It makes me want to work harder for them.”
Even though the Coronavirus Pandemic put a damper to her Junior year, Wilsey made up for it over the summer and Fall. Picking up as a pitcher as well as playing with one of the Bat Company squads.
Through it all, it has made her appreciate the game she loves as she was able to reflect on her past. Appreciate the few innings she did get this Fall, her last couple games happening the weekend of November 8 in Arizona as she looks ahead.
“In that downtime, especially missing my Junior season and all of that, it makes me appreciate softball and how much softball has given to me,” said Wilsey. “Granted there’ve been a lot of tears involved and so many memories, more than I can count of funny things you would never guess would happen.
“Especially with COVID, for the little bit of softball, that was my escape. That was my getting out of the house and it’s just made me appreciate all that more.”
Over the weekend of November 8, the final weekend of her Travel Softball weekend, Wilsey pitched and played different positions. Pitching 12-and-two-third innings with 12 strikeouts over three games in Arizona.
Clackamas went 4-2 in the six games they were able to play in 2020 and went 27-27 overall and 15-13 in the NWAC South conference in 2019 where they went 3-2 in the postseason. The NWAC South features powerhouse Mt. Hood Community College.
For Wilsey, what they offer in guiding players who are just hitting their peak and guiding them to the four-year level is what drove her to the Cougars program for the next chapter of her playing career.
“They got a lot of girls who have started their peaking, but still have so much more to go. That’s why I’m excited to go because I feel like I just started to hit my peak, like I’m only going up from here,” said Wilsey. “This coaching staff…they are just amazing. Their goal is that if you want to play at four-year after these two-years at Clackamas, they are going to be there. They’re going to do everything in their power to better you.
“Workouts, conversations. Little tweaking here and there. I’m very excited to see what more in these two years.”