Gabriel is now the only Ohio softball player to be a two-time recipient of this award. The junior was downright dominant on the diamond this year posting a 16-1 record with a 0.70 ERA and an amazing 233 strikeouts. Not only was Erin enormous in the pitching circle, but she also destroyed opposing pitchers with the bat in her hands. She hit .570 on the season with eight homeruns and 45 RBIs.
When Gabriel won the honor after the 2010 season she did so coming off a disappointing one-run loss in the Division II state championship. Last weekend, the Lady Bulldogs beat LaGrange Keystone 4-0 to capture the state crown. Winning the title made winning the player of the year even greater for Gabriel.
“This honor goes to the entire team and coaches,” said Gabriel via cell phone. “(Winning the state title) was a finally feeling. We finally were able to win a championship. We won it for the school and the whole community.”
It may have been expected that the powerful Poland kids would win the state crown, but the star pitcher was shocked that she came home with the personal honor.
“I didn’t think I had a chance (to win player of the year),” Gabriel said modestly. “To get it twice is an exciting feeling.”
Gatorade makes this award available to athletes who excel in the classroom as well as on the field. In Gabriel’s case that prerequisite is not a problem. Erin is ranked number one in her class carrying a perfect 4.0 grade point average. After she graduates from Poland next June, Erin has agreed to attend the University of Tennessee to continue her softball career. She will also set out to continue her excellent study habits possibly concentrating on a degree in communications. One only has to talk to Erin for a few minutes to realize that this future Volunteer already has a knack for communicating intelligently. That trait can be chalked up to Gabriel’s insistence to hit the books as well as she hits a fastball.
“There are not too many opportunities for female athletes after high school,” said Gabriel smartly. “You must realize your future starts in the classroom.”
As far as Gabriel’s near future she will be focusing on plenty of softball. The busy baller had just completed a tough two-a-day practice session with her travel team in New Jersey when she took a moment to chat. That team is made up of junior and senior all stars from all over the East Coast. At the end of this week, Erin will embark on a trip to Florida, Virginia and Washington D.C., with the same junior national team she has played for in the past. She will head back to Jersey later this summer and also be on a team that travels to South Africa this winter.
“I won’t be home very much this summer,” Gabriel announced chuckling.
These tournaments are not just to show off Erin’s skills either. The soon-to-be senior will utilize this opportunity to oppose excellent hitters to hone her pitching skills. Scary as it seems, Gabriel and most of her championship mates are returning to Poland in 2012 so not repeating is not an option.
“Everyone talks about a repeat, but it doesn’t happen without hard work,” said Gabriel succinctly. “There is always room for improvement. I’m working on three different rise balls and trying to develop a good change up. I’ll need (a good change up) to compete in college.”
Someone who sounds so level headed and excels in both school and the softball field sounds too good to be true, but that is Erin Gabriel in a nutshell. So is there anything this brilliant Bulldog can’t do perfectly?
“I’m not very good at tennis,” Gabriel said sheepishly.
There are hundreds of high school softball hitters that wish she was good with a racket. That way she would concentrate more on the hard court and stop harassing them on the diamond.
Photo from Town Crier archives
Poland softball pitcher Erin Gabriel has been named Gatorade Ohio Softball Player of the Year.