Pitching Coach Plays Big Role in Chelsea Thomas' Success
COLUMBIA - Since her freshman season, Mizzou softball pitcher Chelsea Thomas has turned heads with every pitch.
This past weekend, Thomas pitched 20 innings over two games, winning twice against 15th-ranked Oklahoma. She struck out 34 Sooners, and allowed just one earned run in the two wins.
"Hitting location is a big thing, and just trying to keep them off balance with the change up, I think really worked well," Thomas said after Sunday's game.
But she didn't become an all-star pitcher over night.
Cue head pitching consultant Doug Gillis, who's been a member of the softball staff for the last year, but has worked with Thomas for the last four.
"He's was always there behind me, pushing me just to get better, and he's pretty much the reason why I have a rise ball," Thomas said.
Thomas looks to improve every time she steps on the mound.
"She's one hundred percent better than she was two years ago," said Gillis. He added, "I mean, she doesn't even look the same."
On average, Gillis works with the MU softball pitchers once a month.
But they aren't the only persons getting help. On Sunday he held the last part of a pitching clinic at the Dan Devine Pavilion in Columbia.
"Pitching style, pitching mechanics is very important. Pitching mechanics takes a lot of time to learn," said Gillis.
Missouri softball head coach Ehren Earleywine knows Gillis is special.
"I've run into a lot of good pitching coaches and there are a lot of them out there, but we feel like Doug is by far and away the best guy, not just in the United States, but in the world," said Earleywine.
It helps that Gillis is a player himself. He's a six-time member of Team USA, and he won a gold medal in the 2002 Pan American Games.
"When you play at a higher level and you're able to show younger pitchers what they need to do to reach that level," Gillis said. "And some of the little things they don't know about."
Some say that Gillis' talents as a coach make him a guru—maybe even a Jedi.
"He's like the Yoda of pitching, I would say," said Thomas.