An unstoppable offensive juggernaut in the coveted number three spot in the batting order, the First Team All-Suburban Lakes League, All-District, Second Team All-Ohio performer, the Lady Comets’ all-time batting champion (tied with Delaney Talmage for most career home runs), just signed on to play softball for Owens College.
“I’m very honored,” offers the former Comet
She’ll take to Owens her team-leading .408 batting average and three home runs from her senior season at Genoa, for Coach Duane Lanham at the next level.
“Owens coach (Lanham) had been looking at me during the season, because they had some interest in me coming to play for them,” continues the three-year veteran at third base.
Lydia has been always hard at work on the softball diamond since the age of nine. She and father, John Eckel, would work together for hours on her game at home.
“In the beginning, I wanted to be a pitcher, and he and I would go out into the yard, and work on it every night. It was the same with hitting. He just kind of worked with me all the time, and kept me going with it, and because of that, over the years I just kept getting better and better,” Lydia said.
“I’d definitely say softball is my favorite sport, and I guess being kind of good at it has helped me love it more and more,” adds Eckel.
“I’ve always had to work on my fielding, but hitting has always come kind of natural to me. And I’ve been told by people who’ve watched me, that it’s because I have power, and really fast arms and hands, which means I have really fast bat speed. But I would have to thank my dad for all that, because I couldn’t have done any of it without him. He’s just always stuck with me, and pushed me to work harder and harder, and to get better and better.”
During Eckel’s breakout freshman season she was already starting to make some noise for herself at the high school level. A budding middle-infielder at shortstop, it would be her sophomore year, that Eckel would graduate to full-time starter status by unselfishly moving over a few mere feet to play third base thanks to a vacancy left by incumbent third baseman Jamie Rhoades.
That season, Lydia helped propel the Comets to the prestigious state semifinals, but Genoa lost a heartbreaking, epic battle 1-0 to the Bloom-Carrol Bulldogs in a game that stretched all the way into the wee hours of the morning.
Though bouncing back in 2007, neither the still-intact nucleus of that Lady Comets’ State Playoff-contending team, nor its tough-as-nails junior third baseman would be bridesmaids anymore -at least in the SLL, that is- as the maroon and gray outright won their league title, with Eckel garnering First-Team All-SLL, and even Honorable-Mention All-District recognitions for her all-star contributions to the Lady Comets’ cause, although again, it wouldn’t quite be enough, as GHS for a second spring in a row would see its State title hopes dashed, this time by neighbors Rossford, in the Sectional Rounds.
Which alas, sends “Comet Nation” soaring full-circle back to Eckel’s dynamite senior swan song season just a few sun-washed months back, like an aluminum bat-propelled, Comet-powered fireball hit from her home-away-from-home in the right side of the batter’s box, and over the left-center field fence, which of course very lucky No. 13 did several times over the course of this past out-of-this-world, record-setting campaign, with her final flight manifest reading something to the effect of three aforementioned dingers, two triples, eight doubles, 21 RBIs, 16 runs scored, six stolen bases, those previously-mentioned, prestigious First-Team All-SLL, First-Team All-District, and Second-Team All-Ohio awards, and of course a tie for the all-time school record with 11 career homeruns (she went 29-for-71 in ’08 from the right side of the plate) -which is what got this party started way back in her freshman year to begin with- and which will undeniably put her down in GHS lore as if not the all-time First Lady of Genoa Lady Comets’ Softball, than at least one of the very greats, as she hangs up her maroon and gray uniform forever, but not her Genoa pride, and blasts off to offer some genuine, blue-collar Comet power to the Express of OCC, when the sun comes out again next spring, and local sports fans’ attentions turn back to the diamond.
No, she wasn’t a State champion again this year, but hey, there’s always more work to be done, and another bat to swing. And you can bet that as those warm, golden days of summer, continue to give way to fall’s metal-gray bite, and the eyes of a nation of “Comet Crazies,” proceed to be riveted on a battleground called Comet Stadium -where by the way, Lydia’s kid brother, Alex, just scored his very touchdown for the maroon and gray on a hard-fought, two-yard plunge on a late August Friday night- the elder, possibly more quiet, more unassuming Eckel will be more than happy to let her younger sibling soak up the spotlight, as she takes to the shadows once again, perhaps in her own backyard, along with her blue-collar, lunchbox work ethic, and the sense of small-town humility that her father “Coach Dad” gave her, and her bat, and her ball. And works, and works, and works -honest blood mixing with dirt-, to become a champion in life, for all seasons.