MONTPELIER — Montpelier’s Emily Fritsch loves leading off.
“You kind of set the mood for the whole (game),” Fritsch said. “If the leadoff hitter doesn’t get on, it kind of scares everyone else. I like just having that pressure to try to get on.”
And Fritsch was pretty good at it this season, too.
The now-graduated senior batted .378, was second on the team in hits (28) and stolen bases (24) and also roped eight doubles for the Locomotives’ softball squad (8-15, 8-4 Buckeye Border Conference), which finished second in the BBC this season.
At the beginning of the season, though, first-year coach Andy Robinson didn’t even know she was a leadoff hitter.
“It was actually funny, because being a first-year coach and not being able to see them play at all, having no idea that is necessarily her spot, we had Cadey Hillard leadoff early in the year and things weren’t going as well,” Robinson said. “Cadey didn’t really like doing it, and I’m asking, ‘Who can leadoff?’ And Emily goes, ‘I’ve always led off, so I can do it.’ So I’m thinking, ‘I should have just asked you that at the beginning of the year.’
“... She does a great job. She’s listened, she’s learned how to adjust to pitches, does a great job getting on base for us and giving us a spark. And when she’s on base, she’s one of the best girls in the league of moving up and scoring runs. That’s been huge for us.”
Fritsch’s bat and baserunning abilities aren’t the only things Montpelier relied on her for this year.
She’s one of four seniors — along with Jessi Bumb, Ashley Caudill and Kyndra Abrams — that Robinson leaned on to not only have success this season, but also to help build the foundation for the program.
“We talked about what it takes to set a program and set the foundation, and she’s been one of the big four parts of these senior girls who have done everything we’ve asked, done it the correct way,” Robinson said. “They’ve led the younger girls and when we get three, four, five years to where we want to be, we’re going to look back at this group to girls like Emily and say, ‘That group right there in 2021 was the reason we are where we are.’
“Because without them and without someone like Emily, we don’t get there.”
Fritsch, who earned her second letter in softball this season, is also a four-year letterwinner in cross country, has two in golf and one in track and field from her freshman year.
She also earned three letters in basketball, and was a key part of this year’s team that won its third conference title in school history by going undefeated in BBC play (18-4, 12-0).
“It’s probably just the cherry on top, because we’ve been working our whole lives (for this),” Fritsch said. “Us seniors have been playing together since we were like 10, so being able to go out (with a) winning season, undefeated in the BBC, that was phenomenal.”
Fritsch was also heavily involved outside of athletics. She was a part of National Honor Society, 4-H and student council; was vice president of her class; and is involved with her church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Montpelier.
“I don’t like to be sitting around and doing nothing, so having something to do after school every day is awesome,” she said. “... I’m always doing something. I just don’t like to be sitting around.”
She will be attending Ohio State University in the fall, majoring in business, and received a full ride via the university’s Land Grant Opportunity merit-based scholarship for Ohio residents. The scholarship is awarded to 176 students each year, with an attempt to give it to two students from each county.
“(When) I found out that I got it, I was at school, I was sitting in class and I called my dad (Brian). I’m like, ‘Dad, did you see this?’ He goes, ‘Oh my god, I think you just got the full ride and everything,’” Fritsch said. “I checked every single day for a month straight to make sure it was still there, and then I finally got sent a letter and was like, ‘OK, it’s real. It has my name on it, it’s definitely mine, so I can calm down a little bit.’”
And while she’s taking her next step in life, Fritsch hopes the impact on Montpelier Athletics left by her and her fellow seniors is felt for years to come.
“I’m happy with how my grade went through,” Fritsch said. “We kind of set that new standard for Montpelier sports, especially girls sports. I feel like we’re definitely building the program here.”