NEW CANAAN—New Canaan softball coach Joel Geriak knew his team was in a transitional year in his first season at the helm for the Rams.

He said before the year that with the youth and inexperience on the team, the Rams would go as far as senior pitcher Gillian Kane took them.

She answered by rewriting the record books at the school.

“She definitely met (my expectations), she actually exceeded them,” Geriak said. “Of course I’m biased, but with the team we had I think she is one of, if not the, best pitcher in the state this year…she was by far the best player and best pitcher in the league.”

In 21 games, Kane pitched 139 innings, striking out 234 batters and pitching to a 2.32 ERA.

It was her second-straight year leading the FCIAC in strikeouts, and she finished second in the state in the category.

She also finishes as New Canaan’s career and single-season leader in wins and strikeouts and holds the record for most strikeouts in a game.

Kane joined her mother, Andrea Ehrlinger, as a member of the All-FCIAC first-team. Ehrlinger, now Dinan, garnered that honor back in 1992.

With all that talent, it would have been understandable for Kane to be frustrated with bringing along a younger core of players, but she took the opposite approach.

“I really tried to focus on leading them more in personality rather than my play,” Kane said. “I tried to a more of a better teammate than a better player. I knew there would be a lot of mistakes on the field and I had to reassure the younger kids that it was OK, that they had my support even if they made a mistake and I’d back them up.”

And back them up she did—in more ways than one.

For as dominant a pitcher as Kane is, she’s equally dangerous in the batter’s box.

Kane finished the year with an almost inconceivable .508 average, including three triples and two homeruns while only striking out twice in the season.

That rare combination of prowess on the mound and at the plate is one of the reasons she’s chosen to continue her career at Springfield College, where she’ll have the opportunity to do both right away in the spring.

“That’s a huge deal for me,” said Kane, who became the first New Canaan player to finish her career with 500 strikeouts and 100 strikeouts. “That was another reason why I chose there, I am able to be an impact player right off the bat both pitching and hitting. I’ve always loved to hit, almost as much as I love to pitch, so being able to do that on the team and hopefully all four years is huge for me and its exactly what I wanted.”

That’s one of the reasons she stuck by her commitment to the Division III program, despite being courted heavily by DI Quinnipiac this season.

“I had a really generous offer from Quinnipiac and I did consider it for maybe a night, but I really love Springfield,” Kane said. “I love the team, I love the athletic environment that the school gave me and its nothing against Quinnipiac or their level of play—It’s always a dream to go DI—but I just fell in love with Springfield the second I stepped on campus. Sprignfield was my home and that team there was like family and I haven’t even been able to play a game with them yet, so I knew that Springfield was where I wanted to be and it didn’t really matter to me what level I was at.”

All that matters to Kane is getting in the circle and getting batters out.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “In high school its more of the No. 3 and No. 4 hitter are the ones you have to look out for, and now college it’s one though nine and I’ll be able to show how strong I can be throughout the entire seven innings and not just a couple batters here and there. It’s really putting all my work I’ve done 17 years of my life and showing it these next four years and I’m super excited for it.”

Geriak was an assistant at New Canaan before taking on the lead role in 2018, and he has no doubt her ability will translate just fine at the next level.

“She’s a fierce competitor,” Geriak said. “She has five pitches, she uses all of them to her advantage, she has the ability to pitch out of jams and that’s what made her so special. They’d have bases-loaded and no outs and you feel like they’re not going to score on you, which is nice as a head coach.”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP