ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Express center fielder Zach Gilles

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Eau Claire Express are 13-15 so far this summer and one of their main contributors is a local product, McDonell Central grad Zach Gilles. Chance Dickman shares Gilles' story in our Osseo Automotive Athlete of the Week.

Speed is a virtue, most are just born with it. Zach Gilles is one of them.

"It's awesome," Gilles said. "I mean, it's just kind of something I've always been able to do. I've been gifted with speed."

"He's fast. He's not only fast, but he's baseball fast," Express head coach Dale Varsho added. "There are guys that are really fast but can't run the bases, he can do both."

Zach has utilized his talent in becoming the perfect table-setter atop the Eau Claire Express lineup. Through 28 Northwoods League games, Zach ranks top ten in batting average, stolen bases, and on base percentage.

"He needs to put that pressure on the defense and make sure they have bad throws," Varsho explained. "He compliments our whole offense. He is just that flat-out lead-off guy that you want to put the ball in play and try to beat everything out."

"In my game, whenever I get the opportunity, I bunt the ball and let my speed do the work to help me get a hit," Gilles said.

Zach's speed isn't only valued when he's batting or when he's on the bases. On defense, he covers way more ground than you're average center fielder.

"Yeah, I've learned to use my speed to help track down those fly balls in the outfield to help take away base hits from the other team," Gilles said.

While there are items that still need polishing, Zach has flourished at all levels, from his days at McDonell Central, to starting in center his freshman year at Central Michigan, and now playing back home for the Eau Claire Express.

"It's fun to have him and his family, the Chippewa connection to get over here and play," Varsho said. "He's one kid that I've always expected to have his success right now."

"It's just awesome. I grew up coming to Eau Claire Express games and always grew up wanting to play for the Express," Gilles added. "Right now, I guess it's a dream come true being able to play for them."

Reporting in Eau Claire, Chance Dickman for SportScene 13.

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