Springdale softball star Erin Exler Bish to take her place in A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame

Sunday, April 2, 2023 | 5:30 PM

Like most exceptional athletes, Erin Exler Bish seemed to be at her best at the most crucial moments.

“You would want me at the plate when the game was on the line,” the Harmar native said.

Whether it was in the batter’s box or pitcher’s circle, Bish’s penchant for performing in the clutch highlighted stellar athletic careers at Springdale High School and Geneva College. She will be honored for those achievements with induction into the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame on May 20 at the Pittsburgh Shriners Center in Harmar.

“Growing up in the A-K Valley, it’s such a great honor making the hall of fame,” she said. “There’s just an amazing pool of talent in the area. I was really shocked and happy.”

A 1999 Springdale graduate, Bish was a basketball, volleyball and softball standout for the Dynamos. But she is best known for her exploits on the softball diamond. A four-time all-section selection, the hard-throwing left-hander tossed six no-hitters and a perfect game in high school.

“When we got on the ballfield, we were all friends, and we were winning. Honestly, it was the best years of my life,” said Bish, recalling her Springdale days. “Our best run was my junior year. We made it to the state playoffs. It was an amazing year.”

Bish remembered then-Dynamos coach Rich Spolar had nicknames for every girl on the team. She was known as “Dozer” after a hard slide left dirt flying at home plate.

“He said, ‘You went in there like a bulldozer,’ ” Bish said. “I was never a petite girl. I’m tall and strong. It just fit: Dozer.”

Bish shared the Springdale spotlight with her sister, Erica, who was a year older.

“We were called the ‘dynamic duo,’ ” she said. “When she pitched, I caught, and when I pitched, she sometimes caught or played first base. … She was my greatest teammate. We really pushed each other.”

When Erica moved on to play at Geneva, it was only natural Erin followed her to the Beaver Falls school. Erin is recognized in the Geneva record book for starting every game (202) of her college career.

“I think that’s proof that I’m consistent,” she said. “I do what I say I’m going to do. In a world where there’s a lot of ‘Sorry, something came up,’ I feel it shows my character.”

A four-time all-conference selection, Bish earned National Christian College Athletic Association East Regional Player of the Year and NAIA All-American honors. She still holds Geneva’s single-season ERA record (1.37) but professed to taking the most pride in her ability to smack a softball.

“I became obsessed with hitting. I love it, even to this day,” said Bish, who set Geneva records in batting average, base hits, home runs and RBIs. “People might say that I was a power hitter, but I like to think I was a consistent hitter. I didn’t whiff. I’m proud of that.”

Bish credited her father, Bob Exler, with getting his daughters hooked on softball. The elder Exler is a former Springdale head football coach.

“He coached hundreds of football players, but he also had two daughters,” Bish said. “He made sure we practiced and were dedicated. He picked on us the most, but when it was all said and done, I thank him for what he did. … That’s where our love for the game grew.”

Bish graduated from Geneva as an education major. She served as head softball coach at Deer Lakes and co-coach at Burrell before taking a full-time teaching position at Kiski Area. She then helped out as a pitching coach with the Cavaliers.

“After my first child, I went on maternity leave and never went back (to teaching). I’m now a stay-home mom,” said Bish, who lives with her husband, Dale, and children, Colt, 13, and Daelyn, 12, in Shelocta in Indiana County.

With her children now involved in sports, she admits to getting the coaching bug again. She is an assistant with her daughter’s Little League softball team.

“I’m a student of the game,” she said. “I love watching, analyzing and teaching it,” she said.

If you go

52nd A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 20

Where: The Pittsburgh Shrine Center, Harmar

Tickets: $40

Contact: Larry Lutz, 724-822-3695; Fred Soilis, 412-736-1809; Bill Heasley, 724-882-3079


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