The Press Newspaper
Just two years ago, Gibsonburg went 4-16 in its final year in the now-defunct Suburban Lakes League. But the last two seasons have seen the Golden Bears come back with a vengeance and go a combined 34-13 overall and 13-1 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
And this season has seen Gibsonburg go 15-5 with a 6-0 mark in the TAAC as the team dominated league play, winning every conference game by at least five runs. Currently, the Bears are two games ahead of Cardinal Stritch in the loss column, so they control their own destiny in terms of winning the league crown. And they'll have a shot at winning another sectional crown when the Bears face the winner of Woodmore and Genoa on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Genoa Middle School.
A number of key players have led the Bears this season, most notably Alyssa Escobedo, Filomena Mendoza, Lauren Rahe and Sadie Sneider.
Escobedo has been the Bears' most outstanding player, succeeding both in the circle and on at the plate. As a pitcher, Escobedo has gone 10-2 with a 2.55 ERA while taking on an increased workload because of an injury to No. 1 starter Danielle Fisher. And at the plate, Escobedo is hitting an impressive .525 with a team-high five home runs. She's driven in 25 runs and set a school record for home runs in a season.
Mendoza, the second baseman, is also hitting well, batting .507 with three doubles, three home runs and a team-high 35 RBIs. Rahe is hitting .478 with 14 doubles and 29 RBIs and Sneider has a .441 average to go with 29 RBIs and a team-high 36 runs.
Part of what's helped Gibsonburg this season is its ability to maintain a positive frame of mind.
“Every season, you have your ups and downs,” Kyle Leatherman, head coach, said. “If you remain focused on the things you do well and learn from the mistakes, don't dwell on them and concentrate and good things will continue to happen. It only takes one or two at-bats to turn your game around for you.
“We simplify it – one pitch at a time, if we do that, simplify, we feel we have a pretty good shot at winning the game. At the end of the day, we do enough good things to win the game.”
Part of the reason for the team's success has to do with the fact that it puts together a difficult non-conference slate each year. This season, the Bears faced Wauseon, Bellevue, Otsego and Lake.
“Being one of the bigger schools in the conference, we try to play the same size schools and bigger schools and play the best competition whenever possible,” Leatherman said. “If we want to be the best, we've got to beat the best. Hopefully, when the regular season comes around you hope it has prepared you for the postseason. If you don't bring your best on any day, you can get beat.”
As many people know, the Bears have a rich tradition when it comes to softball. In the previous decade, Gibsonburg won state titles in 2001, '02, and '03 and had a runner-up finish in '04 during an incredible four-year span. Leatherman is conscious of the program's history, but he wants his players to live in the now and remain focused.
“Our goal is that we want to make people proud of our program,” he said. “We can't relive what happened in the past. These girls, they want to make their mark in the program. Everybody wants to live that dream of winning a state championship. If we live on that, we will be so consumed. If they can go out and trust their abilities and have fun, they'll be successful, and they'll leave their mark on the program and take a lot of memories with them.”