Versatile Gearhart keeps the defense guessing

Special to The Robbinsville Sun/ Slap-hitter Leanna Gearhart has proved to be an offensive weapon as the Raven's lead-off hitter.

Special to The Robbinsville Sun/
Slap-hitter Leanna Gearhart has proved to be an offensive weapon as the Raven’s lead-off hitter.

No team yet has stopped Leanna Gearhart from safely hitting, and that is a big problem for anyone trying to stop the Robbinsville High School softball team.

Gearhart has done everything that can be asked of a lead-off hitter for the Ravens. Prior to Robbinsville’s 15-1 win over Hopewell Valley on April 22, the junior had hit safely in her first 11 games at a ferocious .450 clip.

“Last year, I hit sixth,” Gearhart said. “I’m used to hitting leadoff. In travel, I hit first or second. I like starting things off and getting the team going. I mentally get ready every time. I watch the pitcher and see what she’s like. I like hitting first rather than sixth.”

Gearhart is a slap-hitter, and she gives opponents plenty to think about as they approach her.

“Leanna is just a weapon,” said Robbinsville head coach Christine Cabarle. “Not only is she really fast, she’s a power slapper. Whatever you set up against, she’s going the other way.”

A natural right-handed hitter, Gearhart listened when a coach on her travel New Jersey Cheetahs team turned her around to be a slap hitter.

“At first, I missed righty,” she said. “Now I’m so used to it, I can swing away or slap with complete confidence.

“I started off just doing little slaps. I enjoy when the defense is playing so far in and I’m able to rip the ball past them. I get some joy out of it because they’re expecting something totally different.”

Gearhart had to be pretty special to unseat Christine Levering, who has been their leadoff hitter the last two years. Levering, who was 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and a pair of runs against Hopewell, has been her usual reliable self. She had plenty of help Monday. Morgan Psiuk, Megan Hevey and Kaitlin Stahlbrand had three hits apiece; Hannah Olshevski, Gabby Manto and Blaire Morsell had two hits each. The Ravens had 20 hits total.

“Christine Levering has been leadoff for two years,” Cabarle said. “Everybody knows what to expect. Now she’s hitting away a little more at the plate.”

Levering is among the familiar faces taking on big roles. Lauren Fischer has been stellar at pitcher and Becca Freeman steady at catcher. The Ravens aren’t afraid to try some new faces if they’re ready to play.

“It’s definitely different than last year,” Gearhart said. “A lot of our core players aren’t with us this year. We definitely have a close team though. We have a lot of talent. As long as we stay together, I know we can go far.”

The Ravens are 11-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Toms River East, 5-2, when they were held to just five hits. Gearhart had two of the hits, including a double. Despite the hot start, the Ravens are far from satisfied.

“I think we’re doing really well,” Gearhart said. “I know we are perfectionists. There is always something we want to fix or change. As a whole, we have a lot of talent. When we’re working and clicking, we can be successful.”

Leanna Gearhart is playing a new position in  the infield this year.

Leanna Gearhart is playing a new position in the infield this year.

Not only has Gearhart made a switch in the lineup, but also she has also recently changed spots on the field. Cabarle has brought her from left field in to play third base, a new position though she has played second base with the Cheetahs.

“She’s been putting in a great deal of time,” Cabarle said. “She plays on a competitive travel team. She has a lot more confidence this year. She grew up a lot since last year.”

Gearhart already has given her verbal commitment to continue her playing career at the University of Delaware. Her decision was a source of relief, but she is still focusing on her studies and trying to improve her softball skills while aiming for a championship season with the Ravens.

“I have a great deal of confidence in our leadership and I think that will be the deciding factor in how far we go,” Cabarle said. “They need to pull the young ones in and transfer that belief down.”

 


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