Tuesday Trend-Spotting: Vanessa Shippy is all about that base at Oklahoma State
Baseball legend Ted Williams came up with one of the most repeated phrases in sports when he suggested that his was the only line of work in which failing seven out of 10 times made someone a success.
What does that make a hitter in a bat-and-ball sport who fails fewer than three times out of 10?
At the moment, it makes her Vanessa Shippy. The Oklahoma State senior is back on pace for one of the rarest feats of offensive excellence, a .700 on-base percentage, after spending almost all weekend on the bases.
The NCAA doesn't keep official records for single-season or career on-base percentage leaders. But it has collected OBP data since the 2008 season, enough of a sample during an era of offensive growth in softball to know that a .700 on-base percentage is something special.
In those 10 seasons, only three players reached base 70 percent of the time for an entire season. Only two of them, Georgia Tech's Jen Yee in 2010 and Northwestern's Adrienne Monka in 2011, did so while playing in a major conference or in at least 40 games (Savannah State's Torrian Wright also did so in 39 games in 2015).
A year ago, Syracuse's Sydney O'Hara led the nation with a .626 on-base percentage.
After making opponents miserable this past weekend, Shippy leads the nation with a .717 on-base percentage. The leadoff hitter for Oklahoma State (19-6) went to the plate 18 times during those most recent games, wins against UConn, Drake, Pacific, Purdue and Saint Francis. She totaled 10 walks, five hits, one sacrifice bunt and just two run-of-the-mill outs. She scored nine runs.
The hits included two doubles and a home run. The power helps explain why, while only three of her 29 walks this season were intentional, so few teams are eager to pitch to her.
It in some ways sums up Shippy's season thus far: In the only game she didn't reach base at least once by hit, walk or hit-by-pitch, she still scored what proved to be the winning run. With tiebreaker rules in effect against Florida Atlantic on Feb. 16, she started the eighth inning on second base and later scored. She finds a way on base.
We're used to softball players chasing meaningful milestones in Oklahoma. But even as that other team in Norman pursues a third consecutive national championship, Shippy's stubborn unwillingness to fail makes it worth keeping one eye turned toward Stillwater.