Golden Bears share league title, reach regional again

By: 
J. Patrick Eaken

Once again, the two one-stoplight towns with similar street layouts and populations met in the regional tournament, and this year it was Van Wert County’s Convoy Crestview (22-4) winning over Gibsonburg (20-8).
The two softball programs are perennial regional contenders, and have met often, including in 2017, when Gibsonburg defeated the Knights 4-3 in the Division IV regional finals. Both have had considerable state tournament success, too, with championships.
Gibsonburg coach Martin Brown promised that both teams would be well prepared Wednesday for the game at Findlay’s Marathon Field and it turned out to be true. However, Crestview avenged their 2017 loss and defeated the Golden Bears by the same score, 4-3.
Either way, both teams continued to keep the tradition going, despite any pressure on the players to do so.
“The further you get the better the programs,” Brown said. “Actually, pressure is a difficult thing and with winning districts, which was our main goal, we feel anything beyond that is a bonus.”
Despite the regional tournament loss, it has been a season for Gibsonburg that not only resulted in a successful tournament run — it led to a league co-championship with New Riegel (23-5) the first year in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division. New Riegel also reached the regional, losing to Antwerp (19-2), 3-2, Wednesday.
“We got very fortunate with entering a new league and doing as well as we did,” Brown said.
Gibsonburg has three first team All-SBC River Division selections in sophomore Ashley Mendoza and seniors Keely Snyder and Jasmine McNett.
Mendoza batted .533 (40 for 75) with eight doubles, three triples two home runs, 33 RBIs, and 29 runs with an .800 slugging percentage and .563 on base percentage heading into the Crestview game. Snyder batted .406 (39 for 96) with 15 doubles, two triples, four HR, 37 RBIs, 32 runs, a .459 OBP and .720 slugging.
McNett, the league’s Most Outstanding Performer, hit .478 (44 for 92) with 17 doubles, two triples, three HR, 33 RBIs, 42 runs, .564 OBP and .804 slugging.
There is a reason this team shows power, belting 22 home runs on the season. Coral Kocsis hit eight home runs to go with a .507 batting average (36 for 71), six doubles, 33 RBIs, 21 runs, a .560 OBP and out of this world .930 slugging percentage.
“Our hitting has been consistent as it has over the last several years. Here again, I don’t take that for granted,” Brown said. “We are blessed to be able to hit the ball the way we do.
“We have had a tie with our record — last year Jasmine McNett set it with eight home runs. Coral has tied it this year, as a junior. Coral does real well at the plate. But, we have always instilled the long ball swing here. That doesn’t mean we can’t go to the small ball if needed, but we like to swing the bat. (Small ball) may come into play, and when we need to play it, we’ll play it.”
Freshman Camren Krotzer was honorable mention all-league after hitting .440 (37 for 84) with 11 doubles, two HR, 22 RBIs, 26 runs, a .505 OBP and .643 slugging.
McNett was also the team’s lead pitcher, going 18-8 with 122 strikeouts and 60 walks in 146.1 innings. She started in all but two games. However, out of 97 runs scored against her, less than half, 42, were earned.
Jasmine McNett is our go-to pitcher and she has thrown 90 percent of our games,” Brown said. “She never stepped in the circle last year. She is an athlete.
“Now, she would just prefer to play shortstop or center field or wherever else I would need her, but her role currently this year has to be pitching. She’s done very well. Her pitching has improved as the season has gone on. Again, it’s been difficult for her when we commit four, or even five, errors per game where we are bringing more girls to the plate. It makes it tougher on her as it would any pitcher, to stay focused.”
As far as those errors, that was a work in progress that lasted nearly all season.
“We’ve made some adjustments with our batting order, for the most part, which is normal as you go through a season,” Brown said. “Our biggest struggle is we only have one player from last year’s starting roster playing the same defensive position, therefore having eight girls playing new positions, including our pitcher, has caused some issues defensively.
“That makes it tough defensively and we struggled more so early on. As we were progressing, I’m glad to say these last couple weeks we have seen some improvement. It takes some time to get the girls to click.
“With a major movement of bringing Keely Snyder in from center field to shortstop, she’s done a fantastic job to learn that position well. Another key starter this year has been Ashley Mendoza, who is now at the top of our lineup hitting very well and she is still working on some of her defensive skills in right field.”
 
 
 
 

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