By Rich Chrampanis
FREEHOLD – His voice bellows all around a softball diamond, weather he’s at his third base coaching box or sitting atop a bucket in the dugout. The chatter is constant, giving Middletown South a little bit of fundamentals, a little bit of motivation or just a simple command, like telling his infield to “get dirty” with two outs. Tom Erbig could have taken the foot off the gas pedal with his team scoring 17 runs at Freehold Township and take a moment to realize that he was about to become New Jersey’s all-time leader in high school softball wins. Instead, he was coaching right until the final out of a 17-7 win against the Patriots.
The Gatorade cooler dump of water and posing for pictures was more for his lady Eagles than anything else. It’s that kind of focus and mindset for 36 years that allowed Erbig to surpass former Hunterdon Central softball coach Pete Fick to stand on top of the mountain when it comes New Jersey high school softball.
“It just means it’s another win – I swear it really does,” Erbig said when commenting on his new record. “What I like to see is some of my former players coming back and getting texts all ay long, and that means something. That means the most to me.”
He has coached generations of female athletes in Middletown and coaching every spring through four decades has seen his coaching style change, but the results remain outstanding and consistent.
“I’ve become much nicer and calmer,” Erbig said. “I’m intense. I demand a lot from them, but I’ve gotten a lot softer in my approach to them.”
Erbig has won 15 sectional titles and 5 state championships in his tenure as eagles softball coach, the most recent state crown coming last year. Pitcher Maddie McMahon, who is committed to play Division 1 softball at Siena continues to dominate in the circle and has added a dangerous bat to her repertoire. In the Freehold Township win, McMahon pitched five innings to get the win and added two homers, two doubles and 9 RBI’s.
“It feels awesome to do this for him (coach Erbig), and to be part of such a big accomplishment for him and it feels really good to be here.” McMahon said. “He kept telling us to play just like any other game, and to just try not tone nervous and just get the win as easy as we can.”
For Erbig, he puts all of his accolades back to the players. His philosophy is simple, which may explain why the Lady Eagles win year in and year out on the diamond.
“They believe in what we teach. We go out and preform. We teach basics,” Erbig said in describing the key to Middletown South’s softball success.”
Once again, Middletown South has a chance to add to Tom Erbium’s resume and contend for a second straight state championship. It’s clear hat the Eagles softball coach is not thinking about slowing down after setting a dubious distinction in high school athletics.
“It’s longevity,” Erbig said. “I’ve been here for a long time. I don’t think you’re going to find someone coaching 36 years at one school. I can’t imagine what spring would be like without coaching. That’s just what I do in the spring, I coach softball.”
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