She's Looking Toward The Future
May 23, 2007
When Michelle Libby went off to play softball at the University of Massachusetts, she knew she was going to have to work hard to find a spot in the lineup.
She was right.
Libby spent her first season at New England's top Division I college softball program on the bench.
"First off, I think I learned so much more about softball," said Libby, who had four outstanding seasons as a pitcher at Class C Sacopee Valley High before heading to college. "I didn't think I had much to learn, but you go to college and it's a whole new world."
Of course, Libby wasn't going to just any college to play softball. UMass, which has made three trips to the NCAA Division I World Series, is a perennial powerhouse in the Northeast.
Earlier this month, UMass captured its 19th Atlantic-10 championship.
Last week, top-ranked Oklahoma edged UMass 6-3 in the final of an NCAA regional at Amherst, Mass.
Since her arrival at UMass, Libby, who always pitched in high school, has had to learn two new positions.
"When we recruited her, she came here with the understanding she probably wouldn't be able to pitch at this level," UMass Coach Elaine Sortino said. "But we thought she could develop into a role player for us."
Libby's future lies at playing either second or first base.
"She really improved her fielding skills and her ability to move," said Sortino, in her 26th season at UMass.
"She's really, really starting to get better. She's a lot more consistent at the plate. She works hard and she's a good athlete."
Libby got just one at-bat this season. That came on Feb. 10 when she struck out while pinch hitting during a 16-1 win against San Diego State at the Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego.
Libby is on a team that's very talented and very young. The Minutemen lose just three starters to graduation. The 21-player roster included six sophomores and seven freshmen.
"I don't doubt (Michelle) could have started at other places, but that's not what she wanted," Sortino said. "That's the choice kids make. They can go to a lot of places and play, but they want to win a championship."
Libby echoed her coach's comments.
"I'm a big competitor," she said. "It definitely wouldn't have been as fun for me to go to a school where I knew I was going to play."
Libby knows she will have to continue to work on her game in order to play at UMass.
"Mentally, you have to be very, very tough," she said. "You have to come to practice every day like you're fighting for a position."
This summer, Libby will play for the Southern Maine Flame in the American Softball Association's U-18 division to get ready for the college fall season.
"She's got great determination and I believe she has a bright future," Sortino said.
"Hopefully, next year she shows up and we get some things done. There's going to be spots open and some shifting around."