By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Amy Chellevold begins just about every game standing on second base.

It's not that she automatically begins there, but she becomes a threat once she gets there. And she gets there rather quickly.

She usually reaches second in a few pitches. There's usually no way for teams to prevent it.

When Chellevold steps into the batter's box as the leadoff hitter for the UA softball team, the first and third basemen play in, ready to charge the plate. They know what's about to happen, but that doesn't mean they can stop it.

She might drag a bunt and let the infielders scramble to get the ball and cover the bag in time. Or she might slap a hit to shortstop or second and create another defensive nightmare. Either way, she usually just beats the throw, if there is one.

Chellevold, the Wildcats' junior first baseman, has utilized her speed and her bat to lead the Pac-10 in hitting this season with a .489 average entering yesterday's doubleheader against Oregon. She also has become one of collegiate softball's most potent scoring threats.

But never thought she could lead the conference.

"I take more pride in getting on base," Chellevold says. "If I got on base with a .200 batting average, I wouldn't care. That's what I have to do. If we're down or we need a run, I blame myself if I don't get on."

Once she reaches first, she's usuallyoff again a few pitches later, sprinting toward second and finishing with a headfirst slide to steal the base.

Before an apposing pitcher has gathered enough confidence to face the No. 1 team in the country, Arizona usually has Chellevold in scoring position with some dangerous hitters to follow.

For her to become the conference's best hitter took some hard work by her, some help from her coaches and a little misfortune.

"When I came out here, I didn't know what to expect," she says. "Everything I've been able to do was because they showed me how to do it. They've changed everything I've done."

Before she graduated from Thousand Oaks (Calif.) High School in 1990, she would never have thought her success in college would come in softball. Her sport of choice was always volleyball.

"That was pretty much my life," she says. "All I really wanted to do was play volleyball. Softball was for fun because all my friends played."

Coincidentally, Arizona had looked at her twice in high school. Then-Arizona volleyball coach Rosie Wegrich had sent her a few letters but didn't really pursue her.

But Arizona assistant softball coach Larry Ray saw her when he was scouting a high school tournament and was impressed with her quickness.

That evening, he met her parents and discovered, to his dismay, that she had already signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at UC Santa Barbara. Still, he told them that if things didn't work out, Arizona was still interested.

When Chellevold began playing volleyball at UCSB, she wasn't happy because she didn't like the atmosphere around practices. Instead of it being what she had always wanted, it was a troublesome experience.

"I had a lot of problems with the coaches," Chellevold says. "Before, I was usually looking forward to playing but then I didn't."

During that time, she would call Jamie Heggen, her best friend from high school, who was flourishing as a sophomore outfielder for Arizona. Heggen would tell her how much she was enjoying the UA and that Chellevold would like it as well.

Chellevold finished up her first year at UCSB but decided she wanted to play softball for the UA.

Meanwhile, Heggen and Ray encouraged Arizona coach Mike Candrea and he offered Chellevold some leftover money from a scholarship. Chellevold had four years of eligibility remaining at Arizona without having to sit out a year.

Before Candrea knew it, she was hitting .313 with 29 stolen bases, finishing her first season as a third-team All-American.

"I liked it a lot better," Chellevold says. "There were more people that were supportive. It was a different story on the volleyball court because there it was really tense."

Since she changed schools, she has been in the last two College World Series title games, where Arizona lost to UCLA 1-0 in 1992 but beat the Bruins 1-0 last year. She was also named a second-team All-American last year after owning a .379 average.

Chellevold has proven she can do just about anything at the plate this year, even hitting three homers.

She hit homers in high school, but they were the kind that drifted over outfielders' heads and had to be chased after. The three she hit this year were the kind that drifted over fences.

"The first two years were hit back-to-back and I guess I was in an unconscious state because I didn't know what happened," she says. "It was funny, on each one I was looking for an outside pitch to hit the other way and I just happened to get my hands out."

Looking back, Candrea is glad he trusted the advice of his assistant and his outfielder.

"It was kind of a gamble. At the time, we were looking for someone that had speed," Candrea says. "A lot of times, you get kids with great speed but she's one that has all the weapons." Read Next Article