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Stepping back to move ahead

CV’s all-GSL senior lets younger players get pitching experience

Inevitably, the games played on a diamond demand something from those dedicated to them. They call for sacrifice, and often that sacrifice is going to hurt.

Sometimes the game asks you to give yourself up to help the team, to give up your at-bat so that a runner can score or move into scoring position. Those are the easy sacrifices: hit a fly ball or lay down a bunt.

Sometimes the game asks that you “take one for the team.” That frequently means allowing yourself to be hit by a pitched ball. It’s going to hurt a little, but the hurt fades.

But the game doesn’t have a name for what Central Valley High School senior pitcher Lindsey Gibson does for her softball teammates. There should be a bigger, better name for it than just “taking one for the team.”

“Between her sophomore and her junior season, Lindsey really dedicated herself to the game and worked long and hard to make herself a better player,” Coach Jeff VanHorne said. “She did all the things we ask players to do to make herself into a better player. She put in the time in the weight room to make herself stronger. She worked with a pitching coach. She did everything necessary to making yourself a better player.”

In her junior season, Gibson pitched every game for the Bears and was one of the top pitchers in the Greater Spokane League. She was named to the All-GSL first team for her efforts.

This year, however, she pitches much less frequently – but not because she’s injured and can’t pitch and not because she lost her love for the game. No, she’s doing it for the love of the game, because it can make the CV program stronger.

“We have a young team this year,” Gibson explained. “And we have two young pitchers who are the future of the program. Right now, I think this team needs me more in the outfield.”

It’s a lot to give up. You see, Gibson doesn’t just love to play softball. She’s lived softball.

“I play on a club team based in Seattle, so there is a lot of travel involved,” she explained. “From August through December, I never spent a weekend at home. I was always going somewhere to play softball.

“We played against some great teams in tournaments all over. We played against the team that won the national championship last year and we played against teams with players who are headed to UCLA and Arizona and other great college softball programs.”

Gibson’s contributions in the field are considerable. Her batting average a year ago was .500, and she makes the team stronger defensively.

But truth be told, she’d much rather be in the middle of the pitcher’s circle staring down the best hitters the GSL has to offer.

“Yes, I would,” she says. “I want the ball, I want to make the right pitch and take charge of the game. I love pitching, and I think I will always want to have the ball in my hands.”

A year ago, Gibson planned to keep pitching. She wanted a college program to find her and ask her to keep on facing down hitters.

And then her body began to let her down.

“I got shin splints, and they wouldn’t go away,” she said. “It was all from pitching. They told me to take some time off and let them get better, so I took three months off. But they didn’t get any better, and I have to face the fact that they won’t get any better.”

Gibson’s pragmatic view now involves giving up softball in the short term.

“I’m going to take more time off,” she said. “If (the shin splints) get better, I may try to walk on somewhere and try again.”

VanHorne, for one, was impressed by Gibson’s sacrifice.

“It’s the kind of thing you expect to see from a team captain, and Lindsey has been a great role model for this young team,” he said. “She’s been a great sister to her teammates and a very good leader. She set the tone for this team.

“We had a practice the other day, the last practice of spring break. The team wasn’t reacting the way I expect them to during a practice. On her own, Lindsey called the team into the dugout and talked to them. She told them that we have a big week ahead and that we really need to focus on every practice and keep working hard. And they listened.”

The Bears’ young pitchers listen as well.

“All three of us work with the same pitching coach, so we all have the same vocabulary,” Gibson said. “That helps a lot. Our mechanics are all the same, and we can help each other work through problems.”

And when she does take the ball and toe the pitching rubber?

“I look forward to those games,” she said. “I always prepare for a game mentally, and it’s a little strange for me to prepare for games when I’m not pitching.”

Gibson made sure she would get the ball for the really big games, she said – like University.

“Oh, I have to pitch those games,” she laughed. “I have to. I started at U-Hi, and I came out of that program before transferring to CV. I love to pitch against my old team!”