FAIRMONT -- For the past three years, third base - aka the hot corner -?has been a place that the Fairmont Cardinal softball team's opponents try to avoid.
With a quick glove and an even harder throw, Cardinal junior Micaela Gochanour has locked down third base, doing her best to keep opponents off the base paths.
"I moved around the infield when I played when I was younger. I've played shortstop, second and third," said Gochanour. "As a freshman though, they needed someone to play third so one day they asked me to put on the jersey and do it - and it was the best decision I ever made to play."
HEADED HOME — Fairmont’s Micaela Gochanour accelerates as she rounds third base and heads for home during regular-season South Central Conference softball action against St. Peter at Cardinal Park in Fairmont. The hard-hitting junior third baseman will look to use her hot bat and steady glove during Fairmont’s Section 3AA playoff game against Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta at 11 a.m. today in Marshall. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The Cardinals have benefitted from her being on the corner as well. As a younger player, Gochanour knew that her role wasn't as large, but did what she could to help her team be successful.
"When I played as a freshman and sophomore, I think I bunted more than I actually swung at the plate," said Gochanour. "I just did whatever the team needed me to do and whatever the coach asked."
And the junior is still a great team player in her third year on varsity. While her role has changed, her attitude has remained the same.
In addition to adding potent offense to the Cardinal lineup, Gochanour has earned a .600 on-base percentage and is slugging at a .881 clip through the regular season.
"As a player, she's all or nothing," said Fairmont head coach Terry Ehlert. "She gives you everything she has every game, which as a coach, you can't ask for more. And she is a total team player. Whatever we need her to do, she does without complaint."
Last season, the Sentinel All-Area, all-Section 3AA and all-South Central Conference selection led the Cardinals with a .468 batting average with 36 hits.
Gochanour had nine doubles, one triple and smacked two home runs during the 2013 season.
This season though, Gochanour has taken her offense to another level, including a night with a pair of grand slams during a doubleheader with Blue Earth Area on May 13.
With the help of her explosive bat, Gochanour has plated 21 RBIs this season and with speed around the bases, the junior has scored 24 times.
A lot of the success that Gochanour has had at the plate this season is partly because of all the time spent in the batting cages during the winter.
In her third year on the varsity, Gochanour is hitting .525, smacking 31 hits including four doubles and one triple and five home runs.
"I think that the time in the batting cages, even though it stinks being inside, really helped me a lot for this season," said Gochanour. "I went to all the open gyms and tried to play as much as I could so that I could be ready, but also just because I really love to play."
"When I was younger I really liked playing, not as much as I do now, but I did like it," said Gochanour. "But I never would have guessed the things that I've been able to do, or how well I could play now."
The junior has played a part in many Cardinal softball milestones throughout her career, playing a part in a pair of record-setting seasons.
Gochanour has helped the Fairmont program to its most wins in a single season in back-to-back years and helping the team to its best postseason finish last season.
"Her energy during the game is contagious," said Ehlert. "Micaela is very competitive and intense at times, but she is also very into the game. It gets her teammates excited and involved, and it just makes us play better as a team."
The Cardinals have surpassed last year's record-setting win total (11) already this season with 12, but with playoff action today, Gochanour hopes that there are still more games to be played.
"The school season just feels so short - I'm not ready for it to be over," said Gochanour. "I'll be glad to play summer softball until August and then hopefully find a league to play in for the fall. I've never gotten sick of softball yet. I could play it all the time. I just love it."
Gochanour and the No. 5-seeded Fairmont Cardinals take on No. 2-seeded Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta in Section 3AA consolation bracket playoff action at 11 a.m. today in Marshall.