By Dennis Glade
LOOGOOTEE — Gabrielle Ritchey has spent her high school career running on opponents, and Saturday she will have one final time to compete against Indiana high school competition.
Ritchey, a recent graduate of Loogootee High School, will play in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association (ICGSA) All Star Game Saturday at Cherry Tree Softball Complex in Carmel. Ritchey was named a first team All-State, and is one of the five candidates in the running to be named Indiana Miss Softball.
“It’s a great honor,” Ritchey said. “It’s a great time to play one last game as a high school player and play with the best in the state. It’s a pretty big deal for me.”
Ritchey’s illustrious career at Loogootee saw her break nine school records and two state records. The two state records for career and single season stolen bases was Ritchey’s trademark. Ritchey finished her career with a .548 batting average and 172 hits - both school records.
As a senior, Ritchey stole 55 bases, which broke the school record by three and tied the state record for a single season.
She finished with 172 for her career, which shattered the school record by 72 and the state record by 36.
“I’ve coached softball for Loogootee as a head coach and an assistant for 13 or 14 years and I played baseball at Loogootee, I played with some talented people, but I’ve never seen anyone - male or female - have the awareness that she has,” said Loogootee coach Greg Clark. “I’ve never seen anyone as smart on the bases and as aware of what’s going on everywhere on the bases.”
Clark spoke of the incredible instincts that Ritchey possess that allowed her to be a threat any time she stepped on first base. As with most prolific stolen base artists, the instincts Ritchey was born with give her an advantage against almost any opponent. Clark remembers one specific instance when Ritchey’s instincts worked in a way that even wowed her coach.
“She’s learned from every situation she’s ever been in,” Clark said. “I was coaching third base and she was at third base. She got into an intentional run down forcing the catcher to make a throw, because she knew as soon as the catcher threw the ball, there was nobody there to back up the throw and she knew she would be able to score. The only two people that saw that was myself and her.”
In addition to Ritchey’s All-State selection and being a finalist for Indiana Miss Softball, Ritchey is a top 16 finalist for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American list for the North Region. The selection will be made June 28.
“It’s a very big honor, and something to not look lightly on,” Clark said.
Ritchey doesn’t employ just speed in her strategy of stealing bases, but also using instincts and experience that she has honed during her four years in the Loogootee softball program under Clark.
“I think it’s both,” Ritchey said. “I have instincts, but I also have speed. Speed helps.”
She said leaving Loogootee and her softball family won’t be easy when she plays softball at Hanover College in the fall.
“Loogootee is a great place to play softball,” Ritchey said. “It has helped me a lot to be able to play in college, and it’s prepared me for the next level.”