It took 137 games, but junior Alessandra Giampaolo has finally returned to her comfort zone in the lineup – almost like going back to the sunny shores of southern California.
Batting behind former Wolverine lead-off hitter Tiffany Haas for two seasons, the centerfielder got her chance at the top spot for the first time in her Michigan career this past February.
And she never looked back.
With her aggressive style at the plate, Giampaolo sets the tone as the leadoff hitter for Michigan every game. The Pasadena, Calif. native has reached base 15 times in 28 attempts in the first inning since taking over the position.
“I like starting the game, being the first person to see the pitcher and being the first person with the opportunity to get on,” Giampaolo said. “I’ve been lead-off type my whole life, so it wasn’t that hard of a transition. It’s my favorite part of the lineup.”
While most players can scout the pitcher from the dugout before their at-bat, Giampaolo doesn’t get that opportunity batting lead-off. But she actually may be better off not seeing any pitches at all.
“There was one time when I didn’t see any of the pitchers warm up,” Giampaolo said. “I just went up there and said, ‘I’m just going to swing. I don’t know my timing at all.’ And I ended up getting a hit on the first pitch. I think (batting first) lets me get loose a little more, makes me more aggressive. If I’m not thinking about it too much, then I’ll hit it.”
But the centerfielder’s success doesn’t stop in the first inning. She has hit safely in 25 of 28 games since being promoted to the top of the order.
Giampaolo improved her batting average from an already impressive .325 to a formidable .456. Her on-base percentage also rose over the .500 mark.
The shift to the junior’s natural spot has built a strong 1-2-3 punch at the top of the lineup.
“It’s been great so far,” junior Samantha Findlay said. “When Alessandra gets on – and whether it’s (Rebekah Milian) or Molly (Bausher) that usually punch her over – then I put the ball in play to keep her moving. We’re just doing a good job at executing the plays.”
Wearing her number around her neck, the former Polytechnic Panther has executed her own plays as well, recording 16 doubles, already equaling a career-best. Hitting the ball in the gap rather than out of the park, she is well on her way to break the single-season doubles record of 24 set by Sara Griffin 11 years ago.
“She’s very tough,” Michigan pitcher Nikki Nemitz said. “She’s got a good eye, and if you put it anywhere near the plate she’s going to do something with it.”
Said Findlay: “(She’s like) Ken Griffey Jr. because he’s so determined. He makes solid contact all the time. He’s a competitor and likes to win and that’s how she is.”
When Giampaolo isn’t in the batter’s box, she tries to lead the team with her voice. As one of three captains, she makes sure she’s heard whether it’s in the dugout or in center field.
“She’s awesome on the field leading,” Nemitz said. “She’s loud. I can hear her from the mound, but I haven’t really tested how far I can hear her.”
Alessandra’s hoping she can be heard – all the way from Oklahoma City.