April 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Jayne-Leigh Thomas, come on DOWN!

The Eastern Oregon University freshman softball pitcher was the next contestant on the Price is Right last week, but she came home with more than just some swell consolation prizes.

How about a party boat? And an indoor fitness center? Or a 5-foot tall gumball machine?

For guessing within $900 of the price of her showcase, Thomas won them all and became the highlight of the softball teams annual trip to Southern California.

Im telling you, you would have thought wed won the national championship, coach Anji Weissenfluh said while describing the mayhem when the team stormed the CBS studio stage in Los Angeles after Thomas won.

I was in such a daze, Thomas said. I saw my whole team get up on the stage. I was crying and kind of hyperventilating and shaking.

In town for the annual Sun West Softball Tournament, the Mountaineers had Wednesday off, so they got up early and spent the morning standing in line to get on the Price is Right. The shows producer eventually interviewed most of the group of 24; Thomas said he commented about never having a softball team in the shows 29 years.

When taping for the April 26 show started that afternoon, none of the team members were chosen as the first four contestants. But Thomas got the call to come on down as the next contestant, sending her teammates into a frenzy.

On the show, four contestants bid on smaller prizes, with the closest bid without going over getting a chance to play a game on stage for a larger prize. Thomas underbid on 30 crystal wine glasses, then she underbid on a barbecue.

Youre up there and you guess right away, she said, with maybe five seconds to look back at the audience.

Then came the camping gear.

The bids were $550, $650 and $700, and I looked back at my teammates and guessed $701, Thomas said. The price was $806, so Thomas got to go on stage.

I was shaking. I was extremely nervous, Thomas said. I went up and kissed Bob Barker on the cheek.

Her game was pretty simple. She had two price choices for the prize, which was a new computer with stand and CDs.

I had no idea, she said. Her teammates were telling me to go with the $6,000 one.

Her teammates were wrong, but Thomas still got a chance to spin the price wheel, which happens twice during the show. The two winners, who spin the closest to $1 without going over, advance to the final game, the


While Thomas was waiting to spin the wheel, the whole time our softball team was doing cheers for Bob Barker, she said, and I was so nervous anyway.

She spun 90 cents on her first try and advanced to face Francesca, an older woman who had already lost a chance to win three cars because she took the softball teams advice during her game.

Francesca passed on the first showcase, which meant Thomas had to bid on it. She had already seen what the showcase was; the producer was running behind on time and had shown them the prizes on a monitor.

Thomas guessed $21,500.

Francescas showcase had two video cameras, two reclining chairs and a camping trailer. She guessed $23,000, but when Barker announced her price first, it was $21,000. She had overbid, so Thomas would win if her bid was lower than the price.

My thought was what happens if I overbid, she said.

She didnt.

Valued at $22,497, Thomas prizes will arrive at her home in Selah, Wash., sometime by July. Her family has a cabin on the Spokane River, so expect a softball party on the boat sometime this summer.

I think Im going to keep it for the summer and sell it and use the money to pay off school loans, she said.