Poland sophomore softball pitcher Erin Gabriel is already attracting the attention of almost every major college program in the country.
The ones that do not have Erin on their lists already may be adding her soon since she was recently named the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year. Gabriel helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 30-2 record and a spot in the Division II state finals. She is the first Poland player to be named Player of the Year, which is something that makes the sensational sophomore overwhelmed.
“I can’t believe it,” said Gabriel on Wednesday night. “It is a privilege just to be up for the award, but to win it is amazing.”
Amazing is a word often used to describe the powerful pitcher. Gabriel racked up a 21-1 record in 2010 with an ERA of 0.24. The tenth-grader struck out 318 batters averaging 16 K’s per ball game and held opponents to a miniscule .071 batting average. When Erin was not pitching she was abusing opposing pitchers with a bat in her hand. Gabriel gathered a .562 batting average with three homeruns and 28 RBIs. No wonder her
coach was not surprised when he found out about Erin’s accomplishment.
“You would be hard pressed to find someone who accomplished more,” said Poland head softball coach Reid Lamport. “Being that she was a sophomore it had to be a clear cut choice (that she finished first in the voting). It’s pretty exciting.”
It was not exciting for Gabriel when her team played in the state championship on June 5. Poland lost that title tilt to Hebron Lakewood 1-0 with the eventual champion’s only run coming off a homerun yielded by Gabriel. Otherwise, Erin dominated the game going the distance while striking out 12. If you think that winning the Player of the Year award makes up for that one bad pitch in the finale, you don’t know the makeup of this tremendous young lady.
“I would trade this award for that win,” said Gabriel without hesitation. “If you would have told me that that homerun would be the only run (of the game) I wouldn’t have believed it. You can’t put the whole season on one game though. We had a great year and we will come back with a vengeance next season.”
Gabriel also mentioned how she felt bad for her teammates on that fateful day in Akron because she knows that she could not have had such a record-breaking season without their help.
“I could never have done it without my teammates,” Gabriel said seriously. “They put runs on the board and made all the plays behind me. You can’t strike everyone out.”
Coach Lamport agreed with his star pitcher that this was truly a team triumph. He figured she would be toting the team concept anyhow.
“(I knew) she would be the first to credit her teammates,” said Lamport proudly. “This is a twofold award. It brings recognition to her and it brings recognition to our program.”
The voters for the award also take into account what a player does inside the classroom. With Erin, work with books in her hands is just as important as the work she does with a softball in her hand. That explains why the sophomore who has thrown so many perfect games also sits atop her class with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
“Academics are very important to me,” Gabriel said honestly. “Academics will get you everywhere.”
Gabriel hopes good grades gets her into college to study either psychology or physical therapy. She also would not mind getting her master's degree and coaching softball at the scholastic level.
Before Gabriel gets back to the books, however, she has plenty of softball to play this summer. Besides being a mainstay on her summer league squad, Gabriel left for California on June 10 to try out for the Junior National team. That team will be made up of the most dynamic young softball players in America and will travel as far as Colombia and South America starting on Aug. 2. Winning the award from Gatorade was awesome to Erin, but it will pale in comparison to wearing USA across a uniform.
“It would be a great honor to represent my country,” she said excitedly the night before she left for the left coast. “I’m going to have one busy summer.”
Maybe Gabriel can use these hectic couple of months to hone her skills even more. There are actually a few areas where Erin believes that she can get better.
“There is always room for improvement,” said Gabriel. “I try to get better each year. I still want to win a championship. It would be nice to strike out 21 batters in one game too.”
Watching Gabriel pitch all spring you tend to think that no goal is impossible for her to obtain. It would not be a shock to see her make that Junior National team. It would not be farfetched to see her fan every batter in a game or help the Bulldogs win that elusive championship either. One thing that certainly would not be surprising is if Gabriel repeats her sophomore Player of the Year performance as a junior.
Poland softball head coach Reid Lamport congratulates Erin Gabriel with a hand-slap for hitting a homerun during the tournament game against Hubbard last week. Poland won, 7-0.