High School Sports

Athlete of the week: Atascadero's Gunnar Jespersen

With a double, a triple and a home run already on the scorecard, Gunnar Jespersen only needed a single to hit for the cycle.

The Atascadero High senior outfielder was killing the ball and ripped a hit down the leftfield line that reached the fence in only one bounce.

If Greyhounds baseball coach Rex West had ESP, he would have told Jespersen to hold at first and complete the cycle.

But Jespersen went hard all the way — thought about trying to stretch the hit into a triple—and landed on second in his last at bat of last week’s Atascadero Easter Tournament opener against Morro Bay.

As for the cachet of putting your name on one of the rarest feats in baseball, Jespersen isn’t too concerned.

“It’d be cool to hit a cycle,” said Jespersen, The Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Week. “But I think hitting two doubles instead of a single is cooler.”

The game, a 21-7 win for the Greyhounds, was the start of a tremendous tournament for Atascadero.

Leading the Greyhounds to a third-place finish and a near upset of tournament champion St. Francis of La Cañada, Jespersen batted 8 for 12 with five doubles, a triple, a home run, five runs and 10 RBI.

And the fact Jespersen, a quarterback who also led Atascadero to its first league football title in a decade this past fall, treasured the double more than completing the cycle wasn’t a surprise to West.

“That’s just Gunnar’s personality,” said West, Atascadero’s second-year head coach. “I can’t even imagine Gunnar putting anything before winning the game…He’s shown it in football and he’s shown it to me time and time again on the baseball field.”

A look at last year’s stats, where Jespersen batted .167 in just 12 plate appearances, wouldn’t lead one to guess he’d be one of the top players in the PAC 7 this season.

But just like his cycle story would have you think, Jespersen doesn’t define himself by numbers.

As the top returning passer in the county in football, Jespersen operated the runheavy Greyhounds’ offense without focusing much on piling up passing yards. He said he’s hoping to do the same for Allan Hancock College in the fall.

Jespersen is batting .436 this season with a team-high 19 RBI. He’s got 10 doubles and his .709 slugging percentage is second on the team.

Still, West said, Jespersen isn’t the type to keep tabs on his running averages. Here are the more defining numbers: Atascadero is 12-5 overall and 6-3 in the PAC 7 and still holding on to a shot at the league title.

It’s a far cry from last season’s 2-14 conference record. And the leadership starts with players like Jespersen who didn’t have great junior seasons but are starring as seniors.

“I think all the guys on this team,” Jespersen said, “we are pretty confident.Most everyone playing sat out last year. I think they just like playing time again.”