YSU’s Mikovich, UT’s Gabriel share advice to campers
College veterans speak at Ursuline camp
By Brian Dzenis
With Erin Gabriel’s softball career in the rear-view mirror and Cali Mikovich a few months away from joining her, they’re doing their part to help the next set of area softball players.
Gabriel, the former Poland High School and University of Tennessee ace, and Mikovich, the current Youngstown State outfielder, shared some of their expertise on Monday with middle-school players at Ursuline’s softball camp at Sluggers.
“Growing up here, I know how far hard work can get you,” Mikovich said. “Youngstown and all the suburbs around the area, they’re gritty.
“They’re hard-working and every coach and team I came across was always good competition and they were always hard-working,” Mikovich said. “I think it’s so important that we keep it going and if we could do anything with our experience and capabilities to pass it on and continue to develop this area to create the next great softball player, it’s such an easy decision to give back.”
Gabriel is the most-decorated softball player from the Mahoning Valley. She led Poland to a state title in 2011. At Tennessee, she overcame a hip injury to become one of Tennessee’s best pitchers. She is one of four Volunteer pitchers to toss a no-hitter and a perfect game. The awards she won in high school and college are numerous.
To sixth-grader Kylie Carpenter, Gabriel is her pitching coach.
“She always talks about the mental game and that’s really important to me,” Carpenter said.
As Gabriel works towards her doctorate in physical therapy, she helps pitchers, be they youngsters like Carpenter or when she worked with Ursuline College’s pitchers in the offseason.
She’s had a lot of practice with speaking to young players.
“Even in high school, I had to give camps so I’m used to speaking with younger kids and work with them,” Gabriel said. “At Tennessee, we had to give back too. It came natural to me because I’ve been doing it for so long.”
Mikovich, a senior, will join the Cincinnati Reds marketing department upon graduating.
Her dad is Alan Mikovich, Lisbon’s new head football coach. She has no interest in following in her father’s footsteps.
“Oh goodness, I do not see myself coaching,” Mikovich said. “I’ve been around it and know how it feels. I love coming back and speaking, doing camps and what-not.
“I’m like Erin, too; my love for the sport is so strong, whether it be in coaching — which I don’t see as the best fit for me — but I can apply my major to the game that I love and I’m going to be around it for a long time.”
The pair are an ideal to chase for campers want to go beyond being average.
“I think the people playing in college devoted themselves to softball,” eighth-grader Alyssa Sheely said. They went to every practice. They went to as many camps as they could.
“They didn’t go out and party with their friends. They committed themselves to the sport.”