It was evident from a very young age that La Salle-Peru senior Kaitlyn Gibson was a talented softball player.
“I was always the pitcher and the hitter (other teams) pitched around,” Gibson said. “It’s been that way since I was little.”
La Salle-Peru coach Randy Huebbe, who’s lived with and been a father figure to Gibson since she was 2, noticed her talent from early in her career as well.
“I knew she was going to be good,” Huebbe said. “I knew there was a lot of talent ther that had to be brought out. She’ll be the first to tell you that she’s stubborn. Being I’m basically her dad, it made it a little tougher, but she did listen to me. She took what I gave her and what other coaches gave her and put it all together.”
It’s one thing to have natural ability, but it takes much more to develop into one of the best players in the state and a Division I recruit.
Gibson reached that level by dedicating herself to the game.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what she’s done,” Huebbe said. “I’m kind of emotional talking about it because I’ve seen the hard work. People who show up to the games don’t know what she goes through and what she has put in to get where she’s at. She’s pretty much given up the lives a lot of girls have as far as going shopping with friends, going to swimming parties. Instead, she’s out practicing and she’s out playing.
“Something that you can never take away from Kaitlyn is she works hard. There are times I want to relax and she’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to go hit?’ She works hard at everything — defense, offense, being in shape. She just works hard.”
Her work includes hitting in the cage five days per week, regularly working out at Xercise Science and playing travel softball with Nationals Premier Softball out of Rockdale, Ill., playing about 40 games per year all over the country.
“It takes a lot of work,” Gibson said. “It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I think I just work very, very hard. I still do. No matter how good of a game I have, I’m still taking reps the next day. I don’t take practice lightly.
“Even though I’m committed (to play at Ball State University), I’m still working every day lifting and playing games just to get better every day.”
While Gibson’s work paid off in terms of moving on to the highest level of college softball, it also paid off with a stellar final season for the Cavaliers.
Gibson hit .430 and led the area with 29 RBIs, 27 runs and 12 doubles as she helped the Cavaliers to a 20-6 season.
She was voted Illinois Coaches Association Class 3A First-Team All State and All-Interstate Eight Conference.
For all she accomplished this season, Gibson is the 2021 NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year.
“I think I did very well,” Gibson said. “I think having the team I had made me a better player overall. It made me really want to push harder because this team wanted it as much as I did.”
While Gibson said her teammates are “the biggest reason why I push myself,” she credits her family for her helping her along the way as well.
“My dad, Randy, has coached me since I was 5 years old and he’s the reason I hit the way I do,” Gibson said. “He took me to cages a lot. He really worked with me on base hits and driving the ball.”
Gibson said her mother, Nicci, and sister, Taylor, who both played Division I volleyball, always supported her softball career and never tried to steer her toward volleyball.
“My mom and I talked a while before I quit volleyball and I said, ‘Mom, ithink I just really love softball,’” Gibson said. “She was like, ‘Of course, I support you in whatever you do.’ My mom has been there for me and her support is always there no matter what.
“My sister has been a big support system. My aunt Stacey and uncle Cam (Robbins) are my second mother and father. My entire family are people I really go to whenever I need something.”
They’ll be behind her as she takes the next step in her career at Ball State.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can whether I get on the field or not,” Gibson said. “I’m just going to work as hard as I can to get a chance.”