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Gabriella Rodriguez's coaches, teammates remember her as 'genuine,' 'a natural athlete'

Posted at 12:49 AM, Sep 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-12 07:30:17-04

CINCINNATI -- Tears and black smudges marked the faces of the people who formed a semi-circle around Shawna Rodriguez and her remaining family members Tuesday night.

"Gabby would call us crybabies right now," she joked.

Her daughter, 15-year-old Gabriella Rodriguez, died Monday after a strike by a hit-and-run driver on Harrison Avenue. Gabriella had been attempting to cross the four-lane street, which neighbors said has no crosswalks, to reach the Metro bus she rode to school.

The Rodriguez family mourned her Monday night, Shawna speaking through tears as she described her "amazing, smart, big-hearted" daughter, but wanted the Tuesday vigil with Gabriella's friends and classmates to instead celebrate the things she accomplished in her short life.

Chief among them: The Western Hills High School softball field on which they stood. Rodriguez, who was her parents' only daughter and never settled for being second-place to boys, pushed school administrators until they revamped an unused field for the championship-winning softball team's exclusive use. Before, she and her teammates had practiced off-campus while boys' baseball practiced near the school.

"She was a natural athlete," assistant softball coach Karla Garn said. "She loved to share the game with others. If someone wasn't doing something right, she wouldn't get mad at them, she'd correct them."

Friends said she also had a wicked sense of humor and a taste for the ostentatious, including the bold stripes of black she wore on her face during each game and the time she ordered a $30 steak with a school credit card during a team dinner.

"(I remember) how genuine of a person she is," teammate Kendall Anderson said. "She would take time out of her night to talk you through whatever you were going through. It meant a lot."

Rodriguez's parents, Eduardo and Shawna, both said they were touched by the show of support and love in the wake of their daughter's death.

"That smile, and the twinkle in her eyes," Shawna recalled. "That smile. She's looking down, and she feels everybody here."

Police still had not found the driver who struck and killed Gabriella Rodriguez by Tuesday night. 

If you were in the area during the hit-and-run or know anything about the driver, you can call police or report a tip anonymously by calling 513-352-3040