Never take 'The Game' for granted

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Southwestern High School softball standout Madison Gaskin was chasing the Lady Warriors' career home run record before her senior season was wiped out by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Gaskin was heartbroken by the cancellation of her senior season, but she learned to never take the game for granted.

Southwestern High School senior Madison Gaskin had enjoyed a long varsity career playing softball for the Lady Warriors. Gaskin, who begun her softball playing career as an 11-year-old sixth grader, worked her way to the top of almost every softball hitting stat in the Lady Warriors' softball program.

But it was her ability to send the yellow spherical softball out of the ball park that Madison Gaskin excelled at the most. In fact, going into her senior season she had her sights on breaking the Lady Warriors' all-time homer record. But her chance at the program's home run record was cut short by some injuries during her junior season and her entire senior season being wiped out by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

"Madison had an outside shot at the school's home run record before a couple injuries last year and missing her senior season due to the COVID-19 outbreak," stated Southwestern High school softball coach Jarrod Sumner. "Sydney Fourman's 38 home runs is safe for awhile I'd say. Jasi Flynn's 23 career homers rank second and Gaskin is now ranked third all-time with with 20 home runs."

But the career home run record aside, Gaskin was devastated that she never got to put on her Lady Warriors softball uniform one more time.

"Not getting to play my senior year was honestly heartbreaking," Gaskin admitted. "I had been looking forward to my senior season my whole softball career and having it taken away was heartbreaking. Knowing that I won't put on a Southwestern jersey and step out on the field with my teammates ever again really saddens me, but I'm so thankful for all the amazing times we had and the unforgettable memories we made. I never take the game for granted, but I never imagined it would end like this."

Besides her 20 career home runs, Gaskin ranked near the top of almost every career hitting category in the Lady Warriors' softball program. Gaskin maintained a six-year career batting average of .368, while batting .444 her sophomore year and .425 her junior year. Gaskin had 152 career RBIs, 71 stolen bases, and she scored 144 runs.

But it was the 20 home runs that Gaskin enjoyed the most.

"The feeling of hitting a home run is like no other," Gaskin stated. "No matter how many you hit, you never get over the excitement and happiness it brings. You feel so much adrenaline and energy, and seeing all your teammates cheering you at home plate as you round the bases just motivates you and the whole team to celebrate and continue playing even harder than before. Hitting a home run, no matter the situation of the game, always put a smile on my face and all my teammates and coaches' faces. I will never forget those moments."

Gaskin first experienced that happy feeling of the home run as an eighth-grader. It was a feeling she still remembers to this day, although it happened back in 2016.

"My first varsity home run was at McCreary County when I was in eighth grade," Gaskin recalled. "When I hit it, I didn't think it would go out. But when coach Kosmecki yelled, 'It's gone!', my face immediately lit up and the crowd was going crazy. I remember that moment so vividly because that was a huge milestone in my softball career, and impacted my batting greatly."

Since that first home run as a middle schooler, Gaskin began to love the game of softball even more. But she also began to cherish the relationships of her teammates and coaches the most.

"My experience at Southwestern is one I will never forget," Gaskin stated. "Starting out as a nervous sixth-grader and playing with older girls, it was a huge adjustment to make as an 11-year-old, but it was the best decision of my like to join the high school program at such a young age. Through this program, I have learned some of life's most important lessons, and gained lifelong friendships with many memories I will always cherish."

"Southwestern softball has taught me responsibility, honesty, loyalty, and to never take anything for granted," Gaskin continued. "I want to thank Coach Woodall for believing in me as a little middle schooler and Coach Sumner for pushing me to do my best and never giving up on me. As for all my other coaches, you all have left a lasting impact on my life and I'm grateful for your dedication and hard work you put into this program."

Her high school softball coach for the last seven years, Jarrod Sumner, had nothing but high praises for one of the best hitters in the program's history.

"Madison Gaskin has been one of the leaders for the Southwestern High School softball program for a long time and will be severely missed by the team and the coaches," Sumner stated. "She was a leader on and off the field, as she graduated with a 4.3 GPA and has been a tireless worker for the last seven years. Madison has started every game since her eighth-grade year and has been a home run threat every time that she has stepped in the box since then."

"We will miss her bat in the lineup and her enthusiasm in the dugout for sure," Sumner continued. "In the fall, Madison will attend Eastern Kentucky University to pursue a degree in Psychology. She will do great in life and has a great family behind her, as well as the Warrior Nation."

As Madison Gaskin walks away from her beloved Southwestern War Path softball dirt diamond, she left a message to the young girls who will continue to play the game of softball in the future.

"My advice to my younger teammates is to never take the game for granted, because you never know when the last time you step on a field will be," Gaskin said. "Always enjoy the good times, never give up during the hard times. Make every play, every at bat, and every game count. Softball is the game you make it be, so never forget how hard you've worked and how far you've come, and always love your teammates and respect your coaches."

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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