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Posted: April 6, 2008 2:23 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Jessica Spigner, left, and Madison Shipman, right, are two of the top hitters on the Valencia softball team this season. Spigner has moved from third base to pitcher this season and Shipman is the starting shortstop.

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Valencia softball head coach Donna Lee says when her team is in a tight spot, she knows exactly what to do.

Call 9-1-1.

As in, Jessica Spigner who wears No. 9 and Madison Shipman, who wears No. 11.

"You look at our stats and it goes Maddie-Jessie or Jessie-Maddie," Lee says. "They have the highest number of hits and RBIs. They are 9-1-1. When we need something we call them in, definitely."

Spigner hits in the No. 3 position and Shipman is right behind her in the cleanup spot, and the numbers don't lie.

They've been a terror for opposing pitchers this year. They hit for power and average, they get on base a lot, and they rarely strike out.

Out of Vikings players who have seen action in three or more games this year, Shipman leads the way with a .500 average. Her 15 RBIs is one behind Spigner and catcher Amy Moore who lead the team with 16.

Spigner's on-base percentage is a team-high .542 and she also has a team-best four home runs. Her slugging percentage is .784 to lead Valencia, while Shipman is behind Spigner at .661.

But their impressive offensive capabilities aren't the only reason Lee can count on Shipman and Spigner in a pinch.

Lee has asked both of them to play at different positions other than where they feel most comfortable in order to fill holes on the team. Spigner has moved from third base to pitcher and Shipman has moved from first base to shortstop.

It's part of a huge shift for the Vikings this season where Moore, the starting catcher, is the only player starting in the same position as she did last year.

For Spigner, she calls her position change "coming out of retirement."

The senior, who is headed to Tennessee to play third base next season, pitched in one high school game in her career and hadn't really pitched much since eighth grade.

That's essentially when her pitching career went into retirement.

Plus, the Vikings didn't need other options at pitching when they had someone like Jordan Taylor in the circle, who was named the state player of the year by Gatorade and also by CalHisports.com. She was the CIF-Southern Section Division I player of the year as a senior last season and is now playing for Michigan.

But when Lee was thinking ahead to a life without Taylor, she saw the writing on the wall.

"Basically you hear through the grapevine who is coming," Lee says. "We knew Jessie was our only pitcher."

Spigner says she and Lee didn't really even have a conversation about moving from third back into the circle.

When Lee brought it up, the third baseman was already practicing in order to make the transition.

"(I told Lee) yeah, I already know. I'm working on it,' Spigner says. "So I took it upon myself."

After Foothill League games on Thursdays, Spigner travels south to Orange County to get pitching lessons.

Coming out of retirement has seemed to pay off and she shrugs off the idea of feeling pressure for replacing Taylor.

"Jordan Taylor is incomparable," Spigner says. "People keep saying, 'oh, you have big shoes to fill.' I think I have my own shoes to fill. There's no way anyone can compare to Jordan Taylor."

Spigner has pitched every inning of every game this year for Valencia and through Friday was 16-3. She's struck out 117 batters and walked 36. Her earned run average through 19 games was at a minuscule 0.71.

Lee had said earlier in the season that Spigner is an athlete that comes around once every 10 years or so.

"I never envisioned at this point in the season she would be so successful," Lee said. "If last year people would have told me Jessica Spigner would be (16-3), I'd say you are kidding me. You know she is going to take her lumps on the mound. But she's a workhorse on the mound. She really is."

Just like Lee knew through the grapevine that she was lacking a pitcher coming into this season, it was that same grapevine that told her about Shipman, who is now a sophomore.

"I knew Maddie was a phenomenal athlete just from the word out. Everyone kept telling me she's going to be a good one," Lee says. "But hearing is not always everything. Madison was that girl when she told her she was going to play first she said, 'Sure coach whatever you need me to do.'"

So Shipman, a shortstop by trade, moved over to first base for the 2007 season. She's back at shortstop this year.

The sophomore Shipman has verbally committed to Tennessee, so she'll join Spigner two years later, nearly 2200 miles away in Knoxville.

"I started the whole process pretty early," Shipman said. "I visited a whole bunch of colleges. When I found a fit I thought, why not? It all fit well together."

For now, both Spigner and Shipman will continue to do what they can for Valencia, playing wherever Lee needs them to. Shipman has also taken over Spigner's job from last season as the batting practice pitcher.

It's the ability to be successful at almost any position on the diamond that makes these two players Division I-bound, according to the Valencia head coach.

"They are both so athletic," Lee says. "You can really put them anywhere and they would have some impact on the team, truly. "That's why they are being recruited. Their college coaches know they are getting someone that can do anything."

 

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