By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser varsity softball team is once again champion of the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division.
The Cruisers won the title for the second year in a row compiling an overall record of 18-3 and an 9-0 record in the conference. The team has won 29 league games in a row over the past three years. (As of the Messenger’s press time, the team had one more league game remaining and three non-league games.)
“We’re very proud of the team for this accomplishment,” said Cruiser head softball coach Chris Downing. “It is historic and not only is it important to the team, but it’s also about leaving a legacy for the younger girls.”
Groveport Madison Athletic Director Steve Petros said the community is proud of the team’s accomplishment.
“This is the first time we have gone back to back with championships,” said Petros. “The kids are taking a lot of pride in this division winning streak. Looking at the central Ohio landscape, I’m even more proud that our team, along with our wrestling team, have won championships with kids that have come up through Groveport Madison Schools. We are winning doing things the right way and for us it is the only way.”
Downing said the softball team’s strengths include its experience, athleticism, and a desire to
always improve and get better. He said the team also has a great personality.
“The players are confident, relaxed, and they also love to sing and have fun,” said Downing.
“We’re a happy team,” said senior outfielder Carsyn Saunders.
Starting pitcher senior Sara Gockenbach was strong in 2017 and has been dominating again in 2018. She has a pitching record so far this season of 18-3, an earned run average of 1.23, and has powered past hitters to amass 161 strikeouts.
The team has been an offensive powerhouse this year scoring runs in the double digits in several games this year.
Sophomore infielder Kenzie Maddy leads the team in batting average at .544 and junior shortstop Lanie White has hit a team leading 5 home runs and is batting .521.
Not only is the team strong in pitching and hitting, it also excels in fielding. Downing attributes the team’s fielding prowess to the hours of practice the players put in to perfect their game.
“(Sophomore third baseman) Macie Sporleder is our most consistent infielder because she takes a lot of ground balls all year round,” said Downing. “We turned a 4-6-3 double play in a game this season as smooth as we did in practice. It hit me that all that inside time all winter is paying off.”
When asked about the team winning its second straight title, Gockenbach said, “I’m so happy! It means a lot to the team. We’ve been playing so well the past three years.”
Saunders said winning the OCC Capital Division championship again creates a legacy for the team.
“It builds on the past and for the future,” said Saunders. “It develops us as a team and a program. It sets a precedent of positivity and happiness.”
Gockenbach said her most memorable pitching moment this season came during the tournament the team played in South Carolina earlier this spring.
“I struck out a player, who will be playing Division I in college, three times in one game,” said Gockenbach.
Saunders said the game she remembers most from her career as a Cruiser softball player was a sectional tournament game against New Albany during her junior year.
“I hit a two run home run in that game and also caught a hard hit ball in left field. It was slicing away from me and I made a diving catch to get it,” said Saunders.
The future of the softball program looks bright. However, with the district tournament coming up, Downing said, “We are only focused on this season, but I am pleased with all the young talent we bring back next year and the 8th graders coming in.”
The team’s first district tournament game will be at 5 p.m. on May 9 on the Cruisers’ home field at Groveport Elementary School. They will play the winner of the DeSales vs. Olentangy Orange game.
(Statistics cited in this article were obtained from Softballtracker.com as of May 2.)