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Touching base: Kailey Gamble’s time with softball defined by relationships

Touching base: Kailey Gamble’s time with softball defined by relationships

Touching base: Kailey Gamble’s time with softball defined by relationships
May 05
13:00 2022

A bond formed when she was in eighth grade saw sophomore first baseman Kailey Gamble follow head coach Rodney DeLong in committing to three different schools.

The relationship between Gamble and DeLong is why she committed to Georgia Tech University, Austin Peay State University and finally North Texas. While DeLong was an assistant coach for the Georgia Tech softball team during the 2016-17 season, he began recruiting Gamble from her hometown of Oklahoma City, Okla. DeLong’s recruitment eventually led to Gamble’s commitment to the Yellow Jackets her freshman year of high school.

“[DeLong] obviously saw potential in me ever since I was in eighth grade,” Gamble said. “I trusted him and I knew what he was doing.”

DeLong departed Georgia Tech in 2017 when he took the head coaching job at Austin Peay. Gamble’s commitment followed DeLong’s move as she flipped to the Governors. A 39-19 season later, DeLong made another move to take over at North Texas. After three years and three different commitments, Gamble and DeLong settled in Denton.

Gamble began her career at North Texas batting .180 through April 21, 2021. She found her footing at the plate in the final month of the season, however, flashing the potential DeLong saw in her at a young age. The rest of the season saw the freshman bat .357 while hitting her first three home runs of her career. She finished the season with a .261 mark.

“Last year, obviously my numbers weren’t as good as they are this year,” Gamble said. “I was super nervous starting at first base as a freshman. This year I just feel like I’m a lot more mature than I was last year, and I know what’s going on now.”

Building off the final month of last season, Gamble has seen a significant rise in her stats across the board in 2022. She raised her batting average over 90 percentage points from last season with a .354 mark as of May 3 while leading the team in home runs (14), hits (45) and RBIs (48).

“Last year, I feel like she was just trying to get into the swing of it,” sophomore second baseman Mikayla Smith said. “[Gamble] has stepped a little bit more into her shoes and more [into] her comfort zone and play.”

Coming from the same area in Oklahoma, Smith and Gamble have been playing with or against each other in some capacity since they were kids. Through the years, they have gained a friendship and familiarity with each other present long before their days playing for the Mean Green together.

Twenty of the team’s players are from Oklahoma or Texas, with the outliers hailing from Illinois, Kansas and California. Of the 24 players on the roster, 10 are true sophomores who came to North Texas last season — the same time as Gamble. With most players from the same region, Gamble said the team’s chemistry has benefited.

“With a majority of us being from Texas and some of us being from Oklahoma, I think it does kind of help us,” Gamble said. “We always joke around with the Oklahoma girls going, ‘Oh, that’s an Oklahoma thing,’ and the Texas girls going, ‘Oh, that’s a Texas thing.’ Then Lexi [Cobb], she’ll go, ‘Oh, it’s a Kansas thing.’”

Gamble has grown into a veteran on the squad in 2022. Becoming a leader on the team has transcended the field of play for the second-year player – her teammates rely on her on and off the field.

“All these girls know I’m here for them for everything and I make sure they know that,” Gamble said. “It could be with anything. Family, school, anything and they know that I’m a text or a call away.”

The support Gamble provides is given back to her by family and teammates with the latter being the most apparent at home games. When Gamble hits home runs at Lovelace Stadium, a loud “Hey!” can be heard from the stands. Often standing in the top row of the bleachers is Gamble’s father, Scott, who at one game flexed his bicep and pointed to it as he watched his daughter return to the dugout.

“He just did [the celebration] one game,” Kailey said. “Now that’s sort of a thing when I hit a home run.”

As the Mean Green prepare for their final regular season matchup with Marshall University, they are tied for No. 1 in the conference standings with Louisiana Tech University. Gamble’s production will continue to loom large heading into the conference tournament.

“Gamble’s just a good player – it’s the reason she was committed to me at Georgia Tech when she was a freshman in high school,” DeLong said. “I knew the caliber of hitter she was going to be.”

Featured Image: Sophomore first baseman Kailey Gamble prepares to swing on April 2, 2022. Photo by John Fields

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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