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Raytown's Leslie to play for OU Raytown's Leslie to play for OU

By JASON KING - The Kansas City Star
Date: 08/18/00

Jessica Leslie
It's a good thing Jessica Leslie's telephone has a mute button. If it didn't, Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso might be deaf.

Gasso, who coached the Sooners to the 2000 NCAA Championship, called Leslie at her Raytown home on Tuesday and offered her a five-year, full-tuition scholarship. Before Leslie accepted, she sprung from her sofa and screamed.

"But I pushed the mute button first," chuckled Leslie, a Raytown senior. "I was jumping around, hugging my dad...I can't describe how it felt. People always said that if you work hard, you'll get what's coming to you. It's so awesome to see everything pay off."

Oral commitments are non-binding. Players are not allowed to sign letters of intent until mid-November.

By pledging to the defending national champion Sooners, Leslie, a shortstop and arguably the top player in the two-state area, gives Kansas City it's highest-profile softball commitment since 2000 Olympic team member Christie Ambrosi signed with UCLA out of Blue Valley Northwest in 1995.

Leslie said she will cancel official visits to Fresno State, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana State and Missouri.

Watch Leslie play, and it's easy to see why such strong programs were in a recruiting war for her services. She is an avid weightlifter who hits with power to all parts of the field.

In batting an area-best .479 as a junior ar Raytown, 19 of Leslie's 36 hits went for extra bases. That led to first-team All-Metro honors by The Star. This summer Leslie hit .391 for the KC Lasers who finished third at the Amateur Softball Association's national tournament. Included in her 10 home runs was a 230-foot blast over the center-field fence at nationals. It was one of just two long balls hit during the 84-team tournament.

Leslie's versitility also makes her an attractive prospect. Although her main position is shortstop, Leslie also can play second base, third base and outfield, where she has sprinter's speed.

Leslie said much of her athleticism comes from playing soccer. She scored 37 goals as a forward for Raytown last season but because softball is her future, Leslie said she has played her last soccer game.

"I'll play (softball) for Raytown in the fall and in the spring I'm going to have my dad hit me tons of grounders every hight," said Leslie, who will play either second base or shortstop at Oklahoma. "Just because I've got a scholarship doesn't mean I can stop now. I've got to keep working and get a lot better. When I get to college, I want to be ready."

All content 2000 The Kansas City Star