WC’s Gain towered over competition

Published 6:20 pm Sunday, June 7, 2015

Warren Central pitcher Darby Gain was selected as the 2015 Vicksburg Post softball Player of the Year. Gain had a 1.48 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 99 innings this season, and also hit .360. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central pitcher Darby Gain was selected as the 2015 Vicksburg Post softball Player of the Year. Gain had a 1.48 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 99 innings this season, and also hit .360. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

When she’s asked about Darby Gain, Dana McGivney’s face lights up and words flow from her lips like a runaway fire hose.

Gain can pitch. She can hit. She’s tough, and a team leader. As the class valedictorian, she’s the epitome of a student-athlete. She even has a lovely singing voice.

Eventually, the Warren Central coach stops to take a breath, which seems to be about the only thing that can get her to stop praising her star pitcher.

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“Whatever she does, she wants to be the best,” McGivney, Warren Central’s coach, said of her star pitcher. “That self-motivation is something a lot of kids her age are lacking. As she’s gotten older, it’s been there, and her senior year especially. It’s been fun to watch her play.”

Gain did a little of everything for the Lady Vikes this season, and throughout her career. At the plate, she hit .360. In the pitcher’s circle, she had a 1.48 ERA and a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 99 innings pitched.

The four-year starter was at her very best at the end, and will ride off into the sunset as the 2015 Vicksburg Post softball Player of the Year.

“It’s very exciting,” Gain said of winning the award. “It’s a neat thing to have your senior year. It’s a good memory to tell your kids about.”

Gain’s senior year was a story of pain and triumph.

Before the season, she found out that nagging soreness in her right shoulder was, in fact, a strained rotator cuff.

“It wasn’t where I needed surgery, but the doctor said if I wasn’t a senior he would have sat me out for the whole season,” Gain said.

Since there’s at least a 50-50 chance this would be her last season of softball, Gain decided to grit through the pain and play.

She took anti-inflammatory medication to deal with the pain, and got some innings off to rest her shoulder. In the first month of the season, she only pitched one complete game.

Gain, though, contributed by playing first base and serving as the designated hitter. She took hitting lessons from WC baseball coach Randy Broome, and raised her batting average 67 points from 2014 to 2015. She was a career .210 hitter in her first three varsity seasons.

“The fact she wanted to play through that pain, and that injury, makes it even more impressive how well she played,” McGivney said.

Gain said playing with the pain got her acclimated to it, and it became a non-factor after a while. Schoolwork, however, was a different story.

Besides being a great softball player, Gain is Warren Central’s valedictorian. She made a 32 on the ACT, and will attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. She plans to get her pilot’s license and wants to become an aerospace engineer.

Balancing her academic life with her athletic pursuits, however, was not easy. It took a lot of hard work and cooperation from McGivney and other teachers to make it all work.

“It was very streesful sometimes. I had some long nights. Coach Mac if academically-based, and she pushed me to work harder,” Gain said. “My friends and teachers were supportive, too. If we had a long road trip and there was a project due, they were great about giving me until the end of the day to turn it in.”

Gain isn’t sure if she’ll play softball in college or not. She said she might walk on at Embry-Riddle, but wasn’t certain. So as her potentially final season wound down, one thing she was sure of was making the most of it.

She only allowed more than three earned runs once this season, but found another gear during Warren Central’s stretch drive.

In WC’s last 11 games, she had a 1.13 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings. She only walked 13 batters.

She said she never realized she was on that kind of roll.

“I was taking it one game at a time. I wasn’t looking at the big view of it,” Gain said. “I don’t notice that unless I read it in the paper.”

In four playoff games, Gain allowed just four earned runs and seven walks. The Lady Vikes swept Olive Branch in the first round for their first postseason series win since 2007, then were swept in the second round by South Panola.

In the South Panola series, however, Gain might have hit her peak.

Gain allowed a total of eight hits and two walks in the series, struck out 21 batters, and didn’t give up an earned run. Warren Central was shut out in both games, 5-0 and 2-0, by South Panola pitcher Nichole Fullilove.

“It was fun, because it was a pitcher’s battle,” Gain said. “One thing I wish I could’ve seen was how good their defense was. We just didn’t hit the ball. They hit me some, but our defense played well.”

With the season-ending loss in Game 2 of the South Panola series, Gain’s high school softball career came to an end. Four years as the team’s primary pitcher had come and gone, and she became part of the program’s history.

When asked how she thought people will remember her at Warren Central, Gain shrugged.

“I think they’ll remember I was the starting pitcher for a while,” she said.

Not everyone will think of her as just that, however. McGivney, for one. The coach will not only have to break in a new pitcher next season, she’ll have to find a replacement for everything else Gain did.

From the sound of it, McGivney might have to do it while building a monument to her departing pitcher.

“It’s been my honor to be her coach, to watch her grow from a great kid to a wonderful young lady who has so much going for her,” McGivney said. “She’s the epitome of everything you want to coach.”

Vicksburg Post Players of the Year

2015 – Darby Gain, Warren Central

2014 – Brooke Patterson, Warren Central

2013 – Megan McCullough, Warren Central

2012 – Krista Cortezie, Warren Central

2011 – Mallory McGuffee, St. Aloysius

2010 – Chasity Hearn, Warren Central

2009 – Mandy Fuller, Warren Central

2008 – Sarah Franco, St. Aloysius

2007 – Sarah Kerut, St. Aloysius

2006 – Sarah Kerut, St. Aloysius

2005 – Lauren Anderson, Warren Central

2004 – Lauren Johnson, Porters Chapel

2003 – Laura Beth Lyons, St. Aloysius

2002 – Katie Barnett, Warren Central

2001 – Katie Barnett, Warren Central

2000 – Emily Mathes, Vicksburg

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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