Be­com­ing a Bull­dog

Pom­fret na­tive Preb­ble signs to play soft­ball for Gard­ner-Webb

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TAMMY SHOWAL­TER tshowal­ter@somd­ Twit­ter: @tam­lyn­nusa

It takes a stu­dent-ath­lete who lis­tens to her own in­tu­ition, taps into her given tal­ents and re­mains coach­able to make her dreams come true.

That can be said about St. Mary’s Ryken High School se­nior Katie Preb­ble, who re­cently signed her na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play soft­ball at NCAA Di­vi­sion I Gard­ner-Webb Uni­ver­sity (N.C.), a pri- vate Chris­tian col­lege.

The Bull­dogs par­tic- ipate in the Big South Con­fer­ence and Preb­ble said she gives so much credit to her fam­ily and her coaches and ev­ery- one that’s sup­ported her along the way. She said she can’t re­mem­ber a time when she wasn’t on a soft­ball di­a­mond.

“Both of my par­ents played soft­ball and my brother played, so it’s just some­thing I’ve al­ways done.” said Preb­ble, a Pom­fret na­tive. “I’ve been re­cruited to play out­field and first base.”

Preb­ble, a four-year var- sity player and now twoyear cap­tain, has ro­tated around the field, from first base to the pitch­ing cir­cle to out­field.

“I’ll play wher­ever they need me,” she said of her fu­ture col­lege team. “I’m play­ing out­field now for the travel team I’m on [Per­fect Cir­cle]. I’ve been all over the place.”

Preb­ble said one of the most in­flu­en­tial teams she’s played on has been Wag­ner’s 18-U Gold, who re­cently name to Soft­ball.

Head coach Wayne Mill- er is a for­mer coach at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Bal­ti­more County. The team plays in top-tier trav- el tour­na­ments. This past sum­mer, it qual­i­fied and played in the ASA 18-U Gold Na­tional Cham­pion- ship in Ok­la­homa City.

“I give full credit to coach Miller for ev­ery­thing I’ve done,” Preb­ble said. “He’s com­pletely changed me. Be­fore I was with him, I had no me­chan­ics. I was just a big girl and that’s all I was but with him, all of my me­chan­ics changed. I ac­tu­ally stopped pitch­ing be­cause I had back in­juries and fo­cus­ing on pitch­ing took me away from work­ing on other skills. He def­i­nitely made me an in­field/out­field player. He pre­sented me with many op­por­tu­ni­ties and all of the schools that I got of­fers from, it was all be­cause of him.”

Miller said, “Gard­ner-Webb got a great ath­lete and a beau­ti­ful young lady. Coach­ing Katie and watch­ing her ex­cel has been worth the time in- vested.”

Preb­ble said she de­cided on Gard­ner-Webb be­cause it lines up with her re­li­gious be­liefs, it had the nurs­ing pro­gram that she was look­ing for and she en­joyed meet­ing the soft­ball coaches and the mem­bers of the team. She made her of­fi­cial visit in Oc­to­ber.

“I’ve known that I’ve wanted to go into nurs­ing for a few years now and that’s why it was so hard to find a school that would let me while play- ing soft­ball,” Preb­ble said. “I re­mem­ber Ap­palachian changed Per­fect their Cir­cle of­fered me my fresh­man year, but they laid out a list of ma­jors that I couldn’t study and I was afraid to go some­where just for soft­ball, so I was re­ally lucky to find Gard­ner-Webb and the coach said I could study nurs­ing. It may be hard, but I could do it, so he fully sup­ports me ma­jor­ing in nurs­ing.”

Preb­ble has am­bi­tions of be­com­ing a nurse prac­ti­tioner.

“Dur­ing my of­fi­cial visit I was able to meet with all of the aca­demic ad­vi­sors and even got to stay with the girls in their suite. Ev­ery- body’s re­ally, re­ally close there. It’s a smaller cam­pus. You’re never go­ing to walk by some­one and not say hello to them. Ev- ery­body’s re­ally nice. I like the area. Char­lotte is about an hour away so there’s al­ways an op­por­tu­nity to find some­thing fun to do.”

Preb­ble said hav­ing a Bap­tist com­mu­nity there is an added bonus for her.

“It’s kind of ev­ery­thing I’ve been look­ing for and seemed silly to turn down the of­fer at that time,” she said.

Preb­ble, a four-year starter at St. Mary’s Ryken for both soft­ball and soc- cer, re­cently awarded the team MVP award for soc- cer, has one more year with the Knights and she said she’s ex­cited about the sea­son. The Knights have had a 68-8 record in Preb­ble’s high school ca­reer with back-to-back Wash­ing­ton Catholic Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tles in 2014 and 2015.

St. Mary’s Ryken head soft­ball coach Jim Sewell said he first saw Preb­ble play at a tour­na­ment on a 12-and-Un­der travel team and knew she had nat­u­ral tal­ent.

“There she pitched and played first base and even then she had a very good bat with dis­ci­pline and power,” Sewell said. “At high school try­outs her ad­vanced field­ing and hit- ting skills were ev­i­dent. Each year I no­ticed only a few out­stand­ing play­ers who of­fer ma­ture soft­ball skills and re­ally em­braced learn­ing the sport and worked to de­velop their skills and Katie is one of those play­ers.”

Preb­ble fin­ished her fresh­man sea­son with a .366 bat­ting av­er­age with 34 hits, 19 RBIs and 26 runs scored and as­sisted the Knights to their first WCAC soft­ball cham­pion- ship ti­tle, mak­ing school his­tory as the very first girls team at the school to win a WCAC ti­tle.

Preb­ble also made a name for her­self in the pitch­ing cir­cle that year with an ERA of 0.42 with four wins and was awarded with the Knights’ most promis­ing award and was hon­ored to the All-WCAC and All-County teams.

Preb­ble con­tin­ued to im­prove her bat­ting aver- age to a .460 in her sopho­more sea­son with 40 hits, 22 RBIs and 33 runs scored. St. Mary’s Ryken won its sec­ond con­sec- utive WCAC ti­tle with a 1-0 vic­tory over Bishop O’Con­nell (Va.) and Preb­ble was se­lected to the All-WCAC and All-Coun- ty teams once again. She also re­ceived the Ryken award.

As a ju­nior cap­tain, Preb­ble led the state with a 1.042 slug­ging per­cent- age and led the WCAC in six of­fen­sive cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing bat­ting av­er­age and triples.

She hit .543, with 38 hits, 42 RBIs, six home runs and 32 runs scored and was se­lected to the All-Met, All-WCAC and All-County first teams while also earn­ing the SMR coaches award.

Preb­ble said her fa­ther Joe has al­ways been a strong in­flu­ence over her soft­ball ca­reer, work- ing with her of­fen­sive skills and teach­ing her at a young age to de­velop skills to play each po­si­tion.

“Katie has al­ways had a tremen­dous work ethic, and ev­ery suc­cess she’s had has only driven her to get bet­ter,” Joe Preb­ble said. “She’s learn­ing how to work pitch­ers, and her pitch se­lec­tion has im­proved as well. To have four or five strike­outs in 80 or so plate ap­pear­ances for a sea­son is pretty spe­cial, es­pe­cially for a power hit­ter. She’s been blessed with a lot of phys­i­cal gifts, in­clud­ing her strength and speed. She un­der­stands that the ex­tra work she puts in is what’s driven her suc­cess and we ex­pect she’ll con­tinue that as she moves on to play in col­lege.”

Sara Preb­ble, Katie’s mother, said she’s very proud of the col­lege that her daugh­ter chose.

“Her work ethic and char­ac­ter has earned Katie a four-year schol­ar­ship,” she said, “and to have it be from a school like Gard­ner-Webb makes it even more spe­cial. We couldn’t be more proud. This is some­thing she’s dreamed of for a long time.”

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