Any softball team could make a formidable infield with Sterling third baseman Gretchen Gould, her sister Grace Gould at shortstop, and Sycamore’s Gracyn Gabriel at second base.
None of the three are too shabby at the plate, either.
Maybe it’s in the genes.
The Gould sisters and Gabriel are cousins, linked together by former Amboy quarterback Dan Etheridge. Etheridge is Gabriel’s stepfather, and the Goulds’ uncle through his sister, Brenda.
All three standouts played a huge part in the outcome of Friday’s Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional final, a 2-1 victory for Gabriel and the Spartans.
“It’s bittersweet because it’s a big game,” Gabriel said. “I love them and they’re family, but it’s nice to come out on top, no matter who the other team is.”
Gabriel started the game with a putout, one of her two assists in the game. She also had the game’s lone RBI – and it proved to be the game-winner.
Haley Trela’s bloop double kicked off the Spartans’ first inning, as Grace Gould almost made a diving catch ranging into shallow center from her shortstop position. Gretchen Gould’s throwing error on a bunt by Amanda Swedberg allowed Trela to score the game’s first run. Swedberg later scored on a groundout by Gabriel.
The Goulds manufactured the Golden Warriors’ lone run. Grace smoked a double to left to start off the fourth. Gretchen missed on a suicide-squeeze-bunt attempt with one out, but Grace scored on a throwing error after being caught in a rundown.
Gretchen smacked a single up the middle on the next pitch.
Gabriel swatted a one-out double to right-center in the bottom of the fourth, but was almost thrown out by one of her cousins. Gretchen Gould fielded a grounder by Mindy Smits cleanly, but instead of throwing to first, tried to catch Gabriel diving back into second. Instead, the throw bounced short and into right field, allowing Gabriel to move up to third.
Grace Gould avenged her sister with a nice play to throw out Gabriel in the sixth. Gabriel looked like she might beat out an infield single off of Sterling ace Jayme Eilers, but Gould charged and threw to first just in time for the second out of the inning.
“I saw a slow roller, so I was just focused on charging the ball and getting it out quick,” Grace Gould said. “It took a good throw to get her.”
“I thought I might beat it out,” Gabriel said. “But knowing her, she had the talent and arm to get me out.”
Gretchen Gould squeezed a popout to record the final out of the sixth.
Gabriel and the Spartans are now one step away from making the state tournament, a setting her stepfather is familiar with.
Etheridge was the starting quarterback for the 1984 Amboy football team that won the Class 2A championship, but was sidelined for the final game after breaking his arm midseason.
“Even though I didn’t get to play in the game, it’s a memory that stays with you for the rest of your life,” Etheridge said. “The bond you form with your teammates is unreal.”
Etheridge couldn’t help but feel bittersweet watching Friday’s game play out, especially when the Spartans recorded the final out on a groundout by one of his nieces.
“I told my sister that I was hoping Grace wouldn’t make the last out,” Etheridge said. “I’m happy for Gracyn, but I really feel bad for Gretchen and Grace. Gretchen has had a heck of a career at Sterling, so that kind of brings tears to my eyes.”
“I’m excited for Gracyn and her team,” Gretchen Gould added. “I’m glad at least one of us could win a game like this.”