NEW?RIEGEL - One swing of the bat wrote the final chapter in what turned out to be a storybook season for one of the better all-around athletes to walk through the doors of New Riegel High School.
Next year Brooke Scherger will be playing softball at the University of Findlay, but her final year wearing the Blue Jacket blue and gold will be one that won't soon be forgotten.
For any senior athlete, winning a league title is a great way to close out a high school career. Scherger accomplished that three times over, sticking the final exclamation point on the year herself.
The senior standout was a core member of the Blue Jacket volleyball team, basketball team and softball team, that each claimed Midland Athletic League titles.
Triple Crowns are rare no matter what the circumstances. No MAL school had claimed all three girls major team sport titles titles since Hopewell-Loudon in 1999.
For Scherger, it was the perfect way to wrap up her time at New Riegel.
"I sum it up as a great way to go out my senior year," she said. "It was the best way you can possibly end it."
Scherger made sure it ended in style.
In a season and career that saw its share of memorable moments, Scherger listed the final one at the top of the list.
On the final Saturday of the softball season, New Riegel played Lakota with a share of the MAL title going to the winner.
New Riegel jumped out to a 5-0 lead, only to see Lakota rally to take a 7-6 lead going into the seventh inning.
Scherger stepped up to the plate for what would be the final at-bat of her high school career. She made it one to remember.
Scherger hit a 3-run home run that proved to be the difference in the game, lifting the Blue Jackets to an MAL title - the third such one won by Scherger over the school year.
"The thing that sticks out the most was softball," she said. "Our last game against Lakota for the MAL. Down one run and hitting that home run. That's the one thing that really sticks out."
"I felt so good watching her round the bases," New Riegel softball coach Jamie Lininger said. "We had big expectations for this team this year and it kind came crashing down, but to see her and all the seniors go out on that high note was incredible. I was kind of tearing up watching her come around the bases. I couldn't have drawn it up any better.
"It's funny, because if we would've kept that 5-0 lead, I don't think it would've been as exciting or memorable."
Team player. Hard worker. Leader.
All terms used to describe Scherger by her coaches.
"She's one of the hardest working kids I ever coached," New Riegel volleyball coach Cindy Walerius said. "I know a lot of coaches say that, but she truly is. She has such a competitive drive. She wants to win; wants to be the best at all times. She gave us 110 percent at practice and (in) games. She just has a drive. You don't get many kids like her."
The successes achieved by New Riegel's teams this year were done mostly with rosters featuring prominently underclassmen. On each team, Scherger was one of a small handful of seniors that had the responsibility of providing leadership. In fact, on the basketball team, Scherger was the only senior on the roster.
She said she chose to look at that though in a positive light.
"The younger kids really look up to you and listen and respect you when there's not that many," she said. "Just leading by example was one of the things I always tried to do. If they see me going out there and practicing hard, they would do the same. Just work hard and they'll follow."
Her coaches all agreed that Scherger wasn't a real vocal leader, but rather one that let her actions speak louder than her words.
"She's kind of one of those quiet leaders," Lininger said. "Anytime someone wanted extra balls after practice, she was the first one there. She definitely leads with her actions."
Walerius said she would be missed.
"We're truly going to miss her," Walerius said. "She was a leader by example. Not very vocal, just a real quiet kid. Just what she showed on the court and how she practiced, a lot of the kids look up to her."
Perhaps one of the younger players that could look up to her the most was her sister Kara. The younger Scherger was a freshman starter on all three MAL championship teams, making the journey a lot more special for Brooke.
"It was awesome. Being her freshman year, she's expecting something completely different," she said. "Working hard at practice paid off for her. It was awesome because we are really close. Being able to share that with her was awesome."
The Scherger sisters, and everyone else involved with New Riegel sports shared a lot of special memories during the 2011-12 school year.
Scherger's MAL-winning home run was a fitting capstone to what had been an incredible year for the senior and for the school.
Everything started to come into place during volleyball season. New Riegel ran through the conference slate unbeaten. According to Walerius, the team kept a one-game-at-a-time approach that paid off with league perfection.
"It really wasn't something we talked about, we just looked to the next game," she said. "It wasn't something we talked about, winning the title. Yeah, it was a goal but we didn't really talk about it a whole lot. The Hopewell-Loudon game, they had beaten us so many years in a row, winning that game early in the season, that game really set us up. The Mohawk game was a big win for us and got us going.
"Brooke and (other senior starter) Paige Noftz just had so much to do with it. I think once we beat Mohawk, our goal was not to let anyone beat us in the league. We wanted to be undefeated in the league and they accomplished that."
With a spot on the gym wall already reserved for a banner celebrating the volleyball's team title, Scherger said the group began to realize what was possible. The dream of winning the MAL's Triple Crown began to take shape.
"Once we won volleyball, we definitely had that as a goal," Scherger said. "I never thought we would go out and win all three sports, but I knew we had a really strong group of girls on each team, and by winning volleyball, we knew what we were capable of."
Basketball season came around next and once again New Riegel found itself sitting on top of the league. Scherger was a big reason for the team's success, being named the MAL's Player of the Year. She finished third in the league scoring 13.2 points per game, led the league in steals (5.0) and was fourth in assists (3.8).
Player of the Year honors and a league title though weren't enough this time around.
Scherger brought her team to the district finals, the same spot in the postseason with its volleyball run came to an end. The opponent this time was Arcadia. The state-ranked Redskins had already scored a 22-point victory over the Blue Jackets in the regular season.
But the second time around, things went New Riegel's way in the form of a 36-31 victory and a district championship.
The Blue Jackets went all the way to the regional finals before falling to eventual state champion Arlington. Not bad for a team that, according to Scherger, wasn't expected to do much.
"No one ever expected us to go far in basketball," Scherger said. "We worked hard and we had nothing to lose. It was just so awesome beating Arcadia and winning the district. Then to get all the way to the regional finals, one game away from state. It was incredible.
"It didn't really sink in for a while what all we accomplished. Me and my sister were outside just shooting around one day, and we were just like 'Wow, we made it to regional finals.' It just hit us, how far we really went."
Due to the volleyball and basketball teams making deep tournament runs, the transitions from sport to sport were often short. In fact, Scherger said her break between basketball and softball consisted of one day. However, she made the transition seamlessly each time.
At the conclusion of the softball season, Scherger finally had the opportunity to step back and take a break, but instead she said the competitive fire is still lit as she misses the days of summer workouts.
"It's kind of hard watching my sister going to all the open gyms and camps and I really want to go, but I've been really busy with working and getting ready for college," Scherger said.
One thing that has to be noticed about Scherger is how she epitomizes the first half of the term student-athlete.
Despite the hectic schedule of being a three-sport standout, Scherger was able to excel on the fields of play without letting things slip in the classroom as she kept a 3.8 GPA.
Academics seem to be just an important to Scherger as athletics as she said her choice of attending Findlay was primarily made due to the school's occupational therapy program.
The Oiler softball program did play a factor, but the main goal for her at Findlay is continuing her education and eventually getting her masters.
Starting this fall, people in Findlay are likely to quickly find out what people in New Riegel have grown to know the past four years. Stepping on to their campus, and representing their school will be not only a terrific athlete, but a great leader and a great person.
"She's just an all-around team player; (the) nicest kid you'd ever meet," Lininger said. "Great player, great kid. Hopefully she'll do well at Findlay; they're getting a great kid."