Filomena Mendoza might end up playing every position on the softball diamond by the time her career is over at Gibsonburg.
Mendoza, the 2013 Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press and Toledo Area Athletic Conference Player of the Year, played third base for the Golden Bears a year ago as a sophomore. This past season, coach Kyle Leatherman shifted Mendoza from second base to right field about halfway through the year.
“We wanted to get some different bats in the lineup,” said Leatherman, the All-Press Co-Coach of the Year and TAAC Coach of the Year. “She’s a versatile player and she filled in nicely. She was very open to it. We had 10 (letter winners) on our team who were all team players. They would do whatever it took to make it the best team we could put out there. They didn’t care where they played.”
Mendoza, who will be a senior this fall, said she was fine with the move to the outfield.
“Whatever Coach wants, I do what he says,” she said. “It went well. I just changed my mindset and went with the game.”
Leatherman, who resigned his position at Gibsonburg to take an administrative position in the Bluffton school system, guided the Bears to the TAAC championship (12-0) and a 20-7 record this season. They reached the Division III district semifinals before losing to Elmwood.
Leatherman was named the conference’s co-coach of the year last season after Gibsonburg went 19-6.
“It’s always an honor,” said Leatherman, who spent five years as the Bears’ coach. “I look at it as a coaching staff award, and you can’t do anything without the players. When the players do what you ask them to do, whether its individual or team awards, if you work hard and have a successful season, the awards will fall into place. With good kids and good coaches, you’re rewarded by your peers who think of you in positive ways.”
Mendoza certainly earned the TAAC Player of the Year honor. A second-team all-conference pick in 2012, she flirted with a .500 batting average for most of the season. She finished at .480 and contributed three home runs, three triples, 14 doubles, a school-record 48 RBIs and scored 43 runs. She had a .765 slugging percentage and a .534 on-base percentage.
“Last year I thought she got shortchanged (making second team All-TAAC),” Leatherman said. “I thought she was one of our best offensive players last year. She had an outstanding year last year and worked even harder on her hitting in the offseason, and it really showed when spring came around. She was a player who was constantly working on her swing. She would go 3-for-4 and still be unhappy with how she hit the ball. She’s a perfectionist who wants to bat 1.000 every game and all season long.”
Mendoza said being named the TAAC’s top player for 2013 came as a surprise. She was also voted honorable mention all-district.
“I didn’t think about it at all,” she said. “It really shocked me I got it, and it was an honor, too. I worked hard for it. I accomplished what I wanted to, but I thought I could have done a little bit better.”
She added that batting .500 on the season would have been nice, but she realizes softball can be a funny game and not everything can go your way.
“I didn’t get some hits I should have gotten throughout the season,” said Mendoza, who batted third in the lineup. “Some girls just made some good plays. I was a little upset, but overall I’m happy with the outcome of it all. I’m shooting for it next year.”
Mendoza, who wants to play in college, is playing travel ball this summer for Toledo-based SGS Magic Blue, as an outfielder.
“We’re doing pretty well,” she said. “We have our ups and downs, but we’ve won two tournaments so far. I’m playing pretty good. I have to keep everything going that I’m doing.”
Mendoza said replacing Leatherman at Gibsonburg next season will take some getting used to.
“He was a great coach,” she said. “He cared a lot about us. I’m going to miss him in general. He worked hard and did his job, and he will be missed very much next year.”