The Press Newspaper
It has truly been a magical season for Ally Gabel and the sixth-ranked Eastwood softball team.
Gabel gets The Press’ ‘big stick’ award, the Alan Miller Jewelers Offensive Player of the Year and will receive a plaque from the Oregon business.
Gabel, the Eagles’ senior center fielder, has been a key cog in coach Joe Wyant’s squad reaching Friday morning’s Division III state semifinal game against top-ranked Bloom-Carroll (28-3) at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The winner plays for the state title on Saturday.
Eastwood (29-3) enters the semis on a roll, having won 15 of its past 16 games to set a school single-season record for victories. The Eagles defended their Northern Buckeye Conference title and erased the memory of last year’s loss to Gibsonburg in the sectional finals.
“It’s been amazing,” Gabel said. “I can remember going and watching the 2008 team go to regionals and being so excited and wanting to accomplish that in my career. As seniors, we’ve wanted something like this ever since my freshman year. After the disheartening season we had last year, that wasn’t how we wanted to end our year. We wanted to repeat this year and make a run in the tournament, and we’ve been nothing but successful.
“It’s been so fun and I’m so happy I’m ending my senior year this way. To me, it hasn’t hit home. It (state semis) is just another softball game. We go every year to Akron for a tournament in April, so us seniors, it will be our fifth time playing at that field. I love playing in that stadium.”
Gabel certainly made her senior season count. Two weeks ago she was named the NBC Offensive Player of the Year, beating out last year’s winner, Elmwood senior shortstop Brittany George.
“I’m so excited to be honored with that,” Gabel said. “I definitely was not expecting that, that’s for sure. I went out and just played my game. I was shocked when my coach told me a couple weeks ago, the night they voted. Following someone like Brittany George, to compare myself to someone of that ability, it came out of left field for me.”
The 5-foot-8 Gabel, 18, who will be attending Purdue University in the fall to study engineering, has put up some staggering numbers.
A left-hander, Gabel is hitting .460 with 43 runs (second on the team behind Mackenzie Albright), 39 RBI (tied for school record), 16 doubles (school record), four home runs and one triple. She has eight stolen bases and a .576 on-base percentage.
“I’m most proud of my extra-base hits, the doubles, triple and home runs,” said Gabel, who earned first-team all-district and second-team All-Ohio honors. “My sophomore and junior year I was not much of power hitter. When I got my first home run this year (a two-run homer at Woodmore), that’s the first one I’ve ever had. It gave me a lot of confidence. Before that, I didn’t think I had the power to do something like that and I wanted to get more. I was hungry for more of them.
“Ally was the most consistent hitter we had over the whole season. Ally was a team player hitting or bunting, doing whatever we needed from her.”
Gabel, who hits second in the order, batted .414 with 40 runs last year while earning first-team All-NBC honors.
“She’s had a great year,” Wyant said. “She was very deserving for player of the year. For an outfielder to get it is is a little rarer, but she was very deserving. She’s worked out a little bit more. She played basketball. She just got stronger. She’s got a lot more bat speed, and she’s a very good defensive player and one of our faster people, obviously.”
Gabel added that tasting this level of success in softball helped ease the pain of a trying season on the basketball court.
“It’s been a really good year for me,” she said. “I came off basketball season down in the dumps, because we didn’t have the year we were hoping for. I’m honored to be a part of the team. I love playing center field. I’ve played there since my freshman year, so I’m comfortable out there. It’s like my second home. Offensively, I go out there and I want to get at least one hit a game. That’s my goal. If I end up getting more than one a game, that’s even better.”