The only professional softball player that freshman Amanda Gabriel can name is Olympian Jennie Finch. But in the past 14 games, Finch’s trademark pitch has been successful for the GW rookie pitcher.
The riseball, a pitch that rises as it moves toward the batter, has led the young pitcher to 14 strikeouts in two games last week en route to earning Atlantic 10 Co-Rookie of the Week honors.
Gabriel has come into her own over the past few games, recording shutouts in consecutive days against Saint Joseph’s. During the two dominating performances against the Hawks, Gabriel did not allow a single runner past second base.
She attributed her recent success to the riseball and another pitch, the dropball, which she developed with head coach Kim Staehle and junior Katie Miller. The drop ball is softball’s version of a curveball.
“Those (two pitches) are what I struck out all the girls on,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel said that she has also been focusing on cutting down on free trips to first base. Last week the freshman went more than 31 consecutive innings without allowing a walk. She attributed the streak to her work on pitches when the batter has two strikes and no balls.
“(I decide) whether or not to go at them or to throw them a ball,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel leads the Colonials’ pitching rotation with a 9-5 record and a 2.01 ERA. Not only has she already broken the program record for shutouts in a season with four, but she is also on pace to break every other GW softball single-season pitching mark in her first year.
Before graduating from GW, the exercise science major’s ultimate goal is to be named Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year.
“I came here for the education and wasn’t really expecting to have that big of an impact on the team, but after seeing how well I’ve done compared to past pitchers, I think it’s pretty cool,” Gabriel said. “I had no idea I’d be breaking any records.”
The Fullerton, Calif., native said that the biggest adjustment to playing on the East Coast has been the cold weather, recalling the first game of the year when freezing temperatures gave her a wakeup call.
“It was a big change because I’ve never had to deal with weather problems before,” she said. “I’ve never played in weather this cold or had snow on the field the day of a game.”
Staehle said that she recognized early in the season that Gabriel was one of the Colonials’ top pitchers and that her talents would play a significant role in the team’s quest to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Championship.
“She has a great workout. That kid is tough as nails, and that’s what you need in a pitcher,” Gabriel said. “You need someone who will take the ball, go out to the mound and just throw.”