By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser softball team is the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division champion.
“Winning the title obviously has been our goal, but winning the OCC doesn’t mean we have reached all of our goals,” said Coach Chris Downing.
As of press time for the Southeast Messenger, the team has compiled an overall regular season record of 19-3 and is undefeated in conference play with one league game remaining against New Albany on May 5. The team is lead by its captains: senior catcher Jessie Rock, junior pitcher Sara Gockenbach and junior outfielder/infielder Carsyn Saunders.
“Another year of hard work and leading by example has helped our team,” said Downing. “Jessie Rock and Sara Gockenbach play summer ball together and are great friends. Playing winter ball this past year has paid dividends. We have had great performances by Jodi Kern, Macie Sporleder, Carsyn Saunders and Shyla Shirkey. Also lately freshman Ally Maddy has helped our lineup and moving Alexis Preciado to the nine hole and really helped out.”
As of press time, Rock has hit 9 home runs and was batting .486. Gockenbach’s pitching record was 18-3 with an ERA of 1.05 and more than 134 strikeouts. Additionally Gockenbach has been strong at the plate hitting .366 with 4 home runs. Kern was batting .468 with 4 home runs. Saunders was batting .475 including hitting several triples. Lanie White was batting .408 with 5 home runs.
Downing said the team’s strength is the players’ willingness to put the team first.
“Our competitiveness to hold everyone accountable is also a strength,” said Downing. “We worry about ourselves and will make in-game adjustments according to the situation at hand.”
The Cruiser softball team is also a close knit group.
“They really like each other and as coaches we do a lot of team bonding activities,” said Downing. “Also, they love just hanging out in the locker room.”
When asked if there was a game or moment this season that stands out as particularly memorable for him, Downing said, “A game in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (during the Grand Strand Softball Classic Tournament) vs. Canfield South Range from Ohio was a huge game. They are the Division 3 State Runner up from 2016. They returned eight starters and had a pitcher that was undefeated. We won and the back and forth of the game has made us believers in ourselves.”
The Cruisers also won that Grand Strand Classic tournament.
Downing said the team is a joy to coach.
“The players bring a drama free and positive attitude every day to practice and games,” said Downing. “Also, I love my coaching staff and they are truly my best friends and love hanging out with them.”
Now that they have won the OCC Capital Division, the Cruisers have their eye on the district tournament. Their first tournament game will be May 10 at 5 p.m. at the team’s home field at Groveport Elementary against either New Albany or Logan.
Downing said the future is bright for the Cruiser softball program.
“We only lose one starter for next year,” said Downing. “Our JV program is strong and I am happy with some of the seventh and eighth grade talent we have. Also, with a new school we may get new students moving to the area.”
Congratulations, ladies. Groveport Madison School District is so proud of your accomplishment. Go Cruisers!