Watilo seeks excellence at Willamette

Campus Canvass
By: Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Writer
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Having trademarked the slogan “Commitment to Excellence,” the Oakland Raiders have legal title to it. Alex Watilo, however, lives it, according to her softball coach at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. “She demands excellence from herself in every facet of her life,” Bearcats coach Damian Williams said of the Del Oro High graduate. Nowhere, according to Williams, is that more apparent than on the softball diamond, where Watilo enters the pitcher’s circle each week as Willamette’s top hurler. “She’s an awesome competitor,” Williams said. “She wants the best out of herself and she forces it out of her teammates, too. She’s a great leader.” At first glance, Watilo’s statistics this season do not compare favorably to the numbers she put up last year. As a freshman in 2009, the right-hander went 13-3 with seven shutouts and a 1.20 ERA in 17 starts en route to earning All-Northwest Conference first team honors. She struck out 66 batters and walked just 12 in 105 1/3 innings pitched. This season her ERA’s higher (4.22), as is her walk total (20), and she has yet to pitch a shutout. However, those numbers are deceiving, Williams said. “Her ERA is not indicative of how well she’s actually playing,” the coach said. “She’s playing a lot better than her ERA shows. “Our errors are higher this year, so she’s having to face more batters than she did last year. The defense hasn’t been there behind her.” That can be tough for a pitcher like Watilo, who excels at inducing ground balls. Still, Watilo – who could not be reached for comment – has earned a respectable 6-2 record for the Bearcats (18-5, 10-1 Northwest Conference), who are ranked 17th in NCAA Division III. Watilo’s record takes on some added luster when one considers that her only two losses have come against teams ranked among the top 10 in Division III – No. 2 Texas-Tyler and No. 9 Cortland State of New York. Not that Watilo would necessarily be satisfied with what she’s accomplished. “She’s in my office at least once a week asking me, ‘What have I got to go work on? What have I got to do to get better?’” Williams said. Off the field, Watilo holds down a job working at a middle school while maintaining a grade-point average of at least 3.5, according to Williams. Although she’s a sophomore in terms of her athletic eligibility, she’s a junior academically, having taken classes at Sierra College during her days at Del Oro. Williams said Watilo is trying to wrap up her undergraduate degree in three years and get her graduate degree in four – and he wouldn’t put it past her. “She pushes herself more than I can push her,” the coach said. “She’s always trying to figure out a way to make herself better.”