Jamie Gillies said she needed to prove herself.
The idea seemed absurd, considering the Saugus High pitcher was entering her senior season with a three-year record of 50-8, having already accepted a full scholarship to Michigan.
“My sophomore year was great,” said Gillies, a 5-foot-10 1/2 right-hander who was then much shorter but good enough to be chosen first All-Valley by The Times.
Such honors eluded Gillies in 1995, when her earned-run average grew to 1.05 from 0.49 the previous season.
“My junior year, I thought I lacked something,” she said. “I lacked a lot.”
Namely motivation and a killer instinct. When top-seeded Saugus was eliminated by La Mirada, 4-0, in the second round of the playoffs, Gillies (18-5) was the scapegoat.
“I don’t think I was that focused,” she said. “I was living off my sophomore year--and that doesn’t work. But this year, I feel I’ve come back strong.”
For Gillies, 1996 has meant redemption.
She fought her way back by posting a 24-3 record with an 0.41 ERA while taking a less talented team to the Southern Section Division II championship game, where she beat top-seeded Irvine Woodbridge, 1-0.
She allowed only 11 earned runs in 187 innings while striking out 141. In addition, Gillies, previously not known for her hitting, contributed to the offense.
While batting a modest .250, she led the Centurions with six doubles, four triples and 22 runs batted in.
“In years past, they didn’t need my bat, but this year they needed someone to step up,” Gillies said. “I think I’m more of a clutch hitter.”
She was the catalyst of Saugus’ first two playoff victories, allowing one hit in six innings in an 8-0 victory over Arroyo Grande in the first round and scoring after hitting a triple in her 1-0 shutout at La Habra in the second round.
“Everybody looks to her,” Coach Ron Hilton said. “When she’s on, we’re basically on. And she’s very consistent. I’ve had three outstanding pitchers over the past 12 years and she’s probably the most complete.”
More complete than former Centurion Cathy Lewis, who, as a freshman, pitched Cal State Bakersfield to the Division II national championship. Hilton said Gillies has more pitches--baffling opponents with riseballs, screwballs and drop curves--and is a better fielder than the others.
“After I got my scholarship, I did not want to slack off,” Gillies said. “I wanted to go out strong and make sure we won our league.”
After posting a four-year record of 74-11 and leading Saugus to three Foothill League titles in a row, Gillies should have nothing left to prove.