Gabriel shuts down powerful Wildcat offense for state title
AKRON – During the 2011 softball season, you could make a
very strong argument that Keystone was the best hitting team in the state of
Ohio, from top to bottom.
With her performance in the Division II state title game, it is hard to believe anyone could argue that Poland Seminary junior pitcher Erin Gabriel is not the best pitcher in the state of Ohio.
Gabriel, the first player from Ohio to play for the U.S. national softball program and already committed to Tennessee, completely shut down the mighty Keystone offense, allowing just one hit while striking out 10 in a 4-0 state title win.
It was Poland Seminary’s first state title after losing title games in 2001 and last year’s 1-0 loss to Hebron Lakewood.
“In the world of high school softball it doesn’t get any better than this,” Poland Seminary head coach Reid Lamport said.
Gabriel has had health issues this season but you couldn’t tell at Firestone Stadium. Taking advantage of a wide but consistent strike zone, Gabriel hit the edges and challenged Keystone with a very effective rise ball.
Keystone starter Kenzie Conrad, however, matched Gabriel inning-for-inning. The score remained 0-0 heading into the top of the sixth.
Junior Jenna Modic led off with a ground ball to second base. The ball took a late, wicked hop, which the official scorer determined to be an error.
“We looked at it as a fortunate bounce,” Lamport said. “She didn’t have an error, it just bounced up.”
Gabriel, the cleanup hitter, nubbed the ball in front of home plate which worked as a sacrifice to advance Modic to second, bringing freshman Taylor Miokovic to the plate. Miokovic sliced a base hit to center field to give Poland a 1-0 lead.
“That first run was such a key for us being the visiting team,” Lamport said. “Keep it 0-0 and last year keeps coming back.”
Poland scored three huge insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Number eight and nine hitters, Emily Chandler and Marissa Trevis each singled. The two had four of Poland’s seven hits. Leadoff hitter Maura Bobby laid down a bunt and the throw was late to third allowing the bases to be loaded.
Adrianna Sikora walked to drive in one run with still no one out. Modic hit a comebacker to Conrad who got the force at home plate but the throw to first was wild allowing a run to score and put runners on second and third. Gabriel smashed the ball to right field that looked to be extra bases but Alyson Broschk made a diving catch. Broschk nearly doubled the runner off second but didn’t get the call allowing another run to score.
“I felt like if I made that catch it would keep us in the game,” Broschk said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get to it but I thought we had nothing else to lose.”
Keystone’s season ends at 32-2. Head coach Jim Piazza remains proud of his team.
“We had a great year and they have nothing to be ashamed of,” Piazza said, “I know it hurts right now. Next year we can take this feeling and come back and win the whole thing.”
Keystone only had three base runners all game. Bee Shaw, who had a hit and two walks off Gabriel in the regular season matchup between the two teams, singled to lead off the second inning. Shaw would get doubled up when she attempted to steal and a bunt was popped up to the catcher. Erin Pond walked to lead off the fourth. She stole second with one out but Keystone could not drive her in. With two outs in the fifth, Alisha Silva was hit by a pitch.
“I couldn’t have imagined we would only get one hit,” Piazza said. “Gabriel deserves the credit. She shut us down.”
Gabriel struck out 14 at Keystone earlier this year but lost when Keystone scored three unearned runs in the sixth inning. In fact Poland’s only other loss was also at Keystone during the Prebis to St. Francis DeSales who Keystone beat on Thursday.
“Keystone beat us with four unearned runs,” Lamport said. “If we don’t miss two pop-ups, we win. Erin won’t tell you but she was fired up to pitch against them because of what happened the first time.”
Keystone only had one senior on the team in Sanislow. She was one of 13 freshmen but the only to last four years in the program.
“Alexis means a lot to this program,” Piazza said. “She is going to be very successful. She was a great leader by example. I know she will be something special.”