Edinboro softball player walks through season cancellation, senior day and more

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 at 2:12 PM
Edinboro softball player walks through season cancellation, senior day and more by Sam Bohen
Shannon Gilbert. | Photo: Christopher Rosato Jr.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Edinboro’s 2020 softball season came to a premature end. The cancellation would be announced during their annual Florida spring training trip, prompting many things: laughter, tears, memories and … pancakes. Though this was not how the team expected their season to end, they were certainly able to make the most of their time, holding an impromptu senior day.  

Shannon Gilbert, a senior outfielder for the Fighting Scots, spoke to The Spectator about the experience of her short-lived final season, along with the COVID-19 cancellation.  

As told to Sam Bohen 

Getting ready for the season 

We started training for the spring 2020 season back in September of 2019. We have a fall ball season that goes throughout the fall semester, and pre-season starts for us the Sunday we get back from winter break. Once we are back on campus after winter break, we practice six or seven days a week. This includes lifting, conditioning, hitting and pitching groups. 

My expectations for this season was to come together as a team and to prove a lot of people wrong. Although we were a relatively young and inexperienced team, we had a lot of talent and heart. From top to bottom of the roster, each player had something special to bring to this team. It’s no secret we struggled during our time down in Florida, but the stronger the competition we faced, the better we played.  

We played some of our best innings in Florida when coming from behind. After we made it through those 12 games, my expectations for the upcoming season in the PSAC were very high. The best-case scenario for this team was to use the mistakes and experience we gained as a team in Florida to make ourselves stronger in the PSAC.  

Coronavirus and an unknown fate 

This experience will be something I never forget and definitely something I will tell my grandchildren about one day. 

We laughed together, cried together and at the end of the day made the best out of a not-so-ideal situation. 

When we left for our spring trip, the coronavirus was the last thing we were thinking about. I can’t speak for everyone on the team, but in my mind, nothing was canceling our 2020 season. It wasn’t until we finished our game against Trevecca Nazarene (University) that the thought of the coronavirus canceling our season crossed our minds. 

Since my sophomore year, we have stayed in a large house in a gated community down in Kissimmee, Florida. We go to the Spring Games tournament every year and play about 12 games. Traditionally, we have team dinners and spend a lot of time with each other, which creates a lot of bonding moments. 

As upsetting as it was when we found out about effects of the coronavirus, it really brought us together as a team.  

After our game against Trevecca Nazarene on Thursday, Coach Gierlak was having us wait around while he talked to the opposing team’s coach. I had a bad feeling about what was going on while we were waiting. Once coach walked over to us, he called all the parents and families that had come to Florida to support us over, and I knew something was wrong. He began by telling us that Dr. Hannan and Dr. Robbins were behind us playing and were fighting for our season to continue. He told us we were able to play the rest of our spring break out, and after that it was unknown what would happen with our season. I instantly broke down with a huge pit in my stomach; I knew it was over. 

He told us we needed to stay positive and play for each other.  

You could tell it didn’t set in for some, others didn’t believe it, and others were extremely emotional. A lot of emotions began to go through my mind, as well as my teammates’ minds in that moment. 

The final games and a season cancellation 

The underclassmen deserve all of the credit for our makeshift senior day in Florida. They took it upon themselves to stay up late and decorate the house on Friday night without any of the seniors knowing. They made pancakes in the shape of our numbers, posters with our pictures on it and hung streamers up with balloons all over the house. We really had no idea what to except for that day and had so many surprises that meant the world to us as seniors.  

I think that day in Florida, for me, was a lot more emotional because I felt like I was losing the season I worked so hard for. 

We walked into the complex with the bagpipes playing, ready to have some fun and play for each other. We even had a little bit of a dance party before we started warming up, just to get some nerves out. We stretched and ran like we would before any game, and then went to the batting cages located behind the field to start our hitting warm-up. About halfway through the warm-up, someone yelled Lauren’s name (Gierlak) and the two of us turned around to see Olivia Jankowski, Danna Heh, and Brittany Allen walking toward us. They flew down to Florida to see us play on our senior day and it was something I never thought would happen.  

I knew I had to stay in the moment during both games and not let my emotions get to me. 

It meant so much to me to have some of my best friends and my parents there to see me play in what could be my last collegiate softball games. I was fortunate enough to have my parents and my aunt there to watch me play. I would’ve love to have more family members and friends there, but I am very grateful for the ones who were able to make it. A lot of the girls on the team did have family members there, which definitely made it special for them, as well. We were fortunate enough to have Mike Gallagher there to capture this day for us through pictures and videos. At the end of the second game, the underclassmen presented us with flowers and the most thoughtful gifts. Coach Gierlak had the girls line up down the third baseline to cheer us on as each senior had their chance to run the bases one last time. We finished the day by taking lots of team pictures and opening our gifts. Once we got back to the house, Coach Gierlak gave us the opportunity to spend some time together and go out to dinner as a team. 

Not only did the coaches, players and families of our team cheer us on, so did the Kutztown softball team and their supporters. 

Memories 

We have had our ups and downs along the way. We had injuries that were unexpected, but all in all, we were together. And that was all that mattered. Friendships grew and the team bonded over life experiences we didn’t realize one another had. We laughed together and made so many memories that will last a lifetime. 

I cannot say for certain if I will be using my extra year of eligibility or not yet. For me it’s an extremely tough decision; I either go to graduate school or begin my teaching career (in health and physical education). 

My experience here at Edinboro has been nothing but positive. I have learned so much from my coaches and teammates that I had the privilege to play for and with. 

Softball has taught me patience and resiliency, differently each year. Not only has it taught me so much, it has brought me a family I didn’t know existed that grew each year I played for Coach Gierlak. 

Being quarantined at home has given me a lot of time to think about everything a normal senior gets in their final season and what I am missing out on. It makes me very emotional to think about and it does feel like I am losing out on a lot.  

I cannot say I’m angry at anyone because what is happening with the coronavirus is nobody’s fault. 

People say life isn’t always fair, but at least my family and I are healthy right now. And in the long run, that is all that matters.

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