For the first time in history, the state of Ohio will have a representative on the USA Junior Women’s national softball team.
To nobody’s surprise in Poland, that girl is sophomore Bulldog pitcher Erin Gabriel. Gabriel tried out for the national team last week at the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, Calif., against 40 other all-stars. Just taking part in the tryouts was special because each player needed recommendations from rival coaches to get that chance. Only 17 players were selected to the squad. Erin received an email this past Tuesday morning alerting her that she was chosen to be a part of this prestigious group. That email almost sent Erin into shock.
“What an incredible feeling,” said Gabriel a few hours after she got the great news. “When I got the email I was like wow. I stared at the computer. I couldn’t believe it.”
Believe it or not, Gabriel was also named the Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year just a week ago. While Erin attributed most of that award to her teammates at Poland, this appointment to Team USA is a little more of a singular accomplishment. It is something that the young Bulldog has wanted to achieve for a long time.
“I always wanted to wear USA across my chest,” Gabriel said proudly. “This is about honor and pride. I feel that all of the hard work that I have done has paid off.”
Gabriel will have to continue that hard work for the rest of this summer. She will take a couple weeks off to rest a stress fracture of her wrist that she obtained during the recently completed state Final Four (the fact that Gabriel pitched incredibly well with that injury demonstrated the type of toughness she possesses). When her wrist is back to normal, Gabriel will play ball on her summer touring team before heading to practice for the national team. Team USA will leave for Bogota, Columbia, on Aug. 2 and play there for two weeks. Then the USA outfit will fly to South Africa, not to take part in the World Cup soccer tournament, but to play in another tournament of softball matches. It is a great opportunity for foreign fans of scholastic athletics to learn the names of these seventeen sensational softballers from seven different states. It will be especially great for those same people to be introduced to the potent pitcher from Poland, Ohio.
“It’s crazy to think that I am representing Ohio,” said Gabriel. “It’s a privilege.”
Another privilege that Gabriel has is that she is one of only four pitchers that made the national team. There was no certainty how team USA coach Todd Murphy was going to rotate his pitching staff, but you can bet that our fireballer who won 21 out of 22 games as a sophomore with a 0.24 ERA and 318 strikeouts will be at the top of his list. Of course, if Erin doesn’t top coach Murphy’s roll, she has the luxury of knowing that she is always No. 1 in her parents George and Lori’s hearts.
“My mom has always believed in me,” said Gabriel emotionally. “My dad feels as great as I do. He loves softball so much. He always did all the catching for me.”
In a few weeks, the USA Junior national softball team will realize what a great catch Erin really is.
Poland's Erin Gabriel shows the fine form that helped her win a spot on the USA Junior Women’s national softball team in this Town Crier file photo from the 2009 season.