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Softball community honors Gentner; Billies show up, rally past Will East

The slogan was everywhere painted on the field, imprinted on a plaque, peppered throughout the afternoon speeches. "Just show up," was the phrase that Gerry Gentner lived by. And it's now officially become part of the Williamsville South softball legacy.

The school dedicated the field to Gentner on Thursday afternoon, before Williamsville South came back to earn a 19-9 win over Williamsville East in an ECIC II matchup.

Gentner, considered one of the best softball coaches in Western New York, died in January from abdominal cancer. In his 14 seasons of high school coaching, he guided the Billies to three New York State titles (2000, 2004, 2006), captured six Section VI championships, 10 ECIC titles and had a 59-game league winning streak from 2003 to '07. He won 80 percent of his games (259 wins, 65 losses).

"He was competitive," Williamsville athletic director James Rusin said. "He also won with class and lost with class."

About 100 people dodged the raindrops Thursday afternoon to join his family in the tribute. There were current players from all the Williamsville South spring sports, joined by their opponents for the day from Will East. Former players, parents of former players and local college coaches were all in attendance.

"He'll really be missed. He was a great guy in softball," Canisius College coach Mike Rappl said. "Everybody trusted him. He would always be really honest with you."

Gentner's daughter, Julie Gentner-Murphy, took over head coaching duties and explained to the gathered crowd what "just show up" means to the Williamsville South family.

"It's not about home runs or wins or losses," Murphy said. "It's about battling and competing on the field. As Gerry would say, grinding it out when it's tough. When you show up, you do your best, work your hardest."

In Thursday's game, Williamsville East jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Billies settled down and came back with a seven-run fourth inning to break open the game and take the win. Claire Haumesser drove in eight runs, going 4 for 5 as Will South (3-3) collected 17 hits. Nicole Rice and Emily Martin each went 3 for 4.