To hear Eryn Simon recall her first at-bat for Clay's varsity softball team in the
spring of 2008, you'd think it happened just yesterday.
Simon, then a freshman second baseman on the Eagles' junior varsity team, got called up to the varsity squad by coach Brenda Radabaugh for a sectional tournament game in Bowling Green.
“I knew she was an outstanding player as a freshman,” Radabaugh said. “We had a solid second baseman then with Kristina Rendle, so Eryn played on the jayvee team that year. During tournament time, like always, we pull jayvee players to come up and Eryn fulfilled a pinch-hitting role that year.”
Simon, now a senior and last year's City League Player of the Year, said she never expected to get a chance to hit during her first varsity game.
“I remember sitting in the dugout, cheering everyone on, and Coach telling everyone to get your batting gloves on and get ready to bat,” Simon said. “Then she went to talk to the umpire, and my heart was pounding. It was really nerve wracking.”
Simon told herself she would swing at the first good pitch she saw.
“I hit it and thought it was a pop-up,” she said. “I was running around the bases and saw it hit the top of the fence and bounce back in (for a double). I was thinking, 'wow! How did that happen?' I was in awe that I swung at the first pitch in my first varsity game. I was mad it didn't go out, but it was just one of those things.”
Simon's stellar career is now winding down. On Wednesday, seventh-ranked Clay (23-4) crushed St. Ursula Academy 9-1 in the Division I district semifinals; the two teams will meet again for the CL championship on Monday. Simon, who had two hits including a two-run double, two runs scored and a stolen base in the district semis, is a team captain along with shortstop Hallie Thompson.
“Eryn has been a great leader and she's a positive person,” Radabaugh said. “She's always focused, on defense and offense. It's hard to say one specific thing I will miss about her.”
Through 27 games Simon is hitting .432 with 25 runs, a team-high eight doubles, four triples, two home runs, 31 RBI and 11 stolen bases. She's committed just two errors in 94 chances at second base, for a .979 fielding percentage.
“She's fantastic,” Radabaugh said. “She has great range at second. I've seen her field balls that first basemen should have fielded. She'd field it behind first and flip it backhand for an out. She runs into the outfield and goes over her shoulder and makes basket catches. Just an outstanding second baseman all around. She's naturally a good athlete, and she works hard.”
Simon started at first base as a youngster but moved to second when she began playing travel ball for Ryan DeMars.
“He threw me in at second base and I had never played there before, and it just stuck with me,” Simon said. “I played summer ball ever since I was 9, and playing all summer helped me with my fielding. We also do a drill called 5-4-3-2-1 at practice, where you field ground balls from different batters, and that's helped.”
Simon, Clay's No. 3 hitter, said her father, Bill, has played a big role in her becoming a great hitter. She has struck out just six times in 78 plate appearances this season.
“If I'm in a slump, my dad and I will go out with whiffle balls and we'll tweak my swing,” Simon said. “He can watch a game on TV and see what I'm doing wrong. I played for him, too, when I was younger and I grew up listening to all of his advice. I've had a pretty good season. I'm still trying to live up to last year, but overall I've done pretty well.”
Simon, who has a 4.17 GPA and is ranked in the top 10 in her class of more than 320, has been taking courses at Owens Community College since last August. She plans to study either physical therapy or math education and become a teacher. Her mother, Linda, is a teacher at Clay.
Simon said her fondest memory of playing for the Eagles is “definitely” last season's run to the regional finals, where Clay lost to eventual state champion Elyria 4-1.
“Going all the way to the regional finals, I remember how surreal that was,” Simon said. “We weren't even picked to win the City League, but we beat everyone in the City and then we beat Anthony Wayne and Springfield in the tournament. After we beat Springfield we thought, wow, we can go so much farther now.”