April 23, 2010

College Connections: Libby using the bat to make her mark at UMass

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

During her high school career at Sacopee Valley in South Hiram, Michelle Libby was regarded as one of the most dominating pitchers in the state.

Now, in her senior season at the University of Massachusetts, she’s gaining a reputation as a powerful hitter.

Libby, now playing mostly left field and sometimes third base, is among the leading hitters for the Minutemen. After 33 games, Libby had a .317 batting average with six home runs, 20 RBI and 12 runs scored. Her slugging percentage is .598.

“I do miss it,’’ Libby said of her pitching career. “But I just love being on the field and playing. I love running and diving for balls, catching balls and doing everything out there. As long as I’m playing and hitting, I’m OK. I just love softball.’’

Libby knew when she went to UMass that she wasn’t going to pitch – though she did occasionally throw in the bullpen just in case she was needed. She played sparingly her first two seasons, getting just one at-bat as a freshman and 22 as a sophomore, but she never got flustered.

Instead she listened to her coaches’ advice, worked hard and bided her time. Her chance came in her junior season. She hit .312 with three home runs and 18 RBI.

“The more games you play, the more days you practice … there’s always a point where something clicks,’’ said Libby. “Even now, as a senior, you’re working on your hitting and the coach says something to you and … it just clicks. All of a sudden you take one swing and it clicks.’’

Libby stayed in Amherst the summer between her sophomore and junior years instead of coming home to Maine. She was able to play on a travel team in Connecticut, work out daily with the UMass strength and conditioning coach and work in the team facilities.

“Just keeping in that mode, never taking a break,’’ said Libby. “When you’re at home, it’s so much different than when you’re here. I had those resources. I was able to keep playing and keep working on my swing.’’

As she matured as player, Libby also matured as a leader. Being one of the seven seniors on the team this year, Libby knew she had to step into a leadership role.

“I’m a vocal person, a vocal player,’’ said Libby. “I knew if I was going to be a starter, I could be a leader and communicate and motivate. I also have a good sense of humor.

“When the team starts to get stressed out, I try to set the mood a little bit and help everyone relax.’’

Sometimes she does that at the plate, like in last week’s 7-5 victory over Boston University. Libby hit a three-run homer to give the Minutemen a 4-0 lead.

“That’s what we work for,’’ said Libby. “We practice situations like that all the time. I know my job is to produce runs in those clutch situations.

“But you have to go into every at-bat as if there was nobody on base, no outs. If you go up there thinking you’ve got to get a hit, you’re going to paralyze yourself. I just try to be relaxed, see the ball and hit the ball.’’

Libby will graduate with a degree in sports management and hopes to get a job in golf – another sport she loves.

“With this economy, any job is going to be a good job,’’ she said. “But I’m going to try to concentrate on something in golf.’’

MEN’S LACROSSE

Junior midfielder Ryan Oakes of North Yarmouth (Cheverus) continues to play well for Susquehanna. In a recent win over Moravian, he won a game-high 14 faceoffs and scooped up three ground balls.

Senior attack Garrett McAdam of Portland scored two goals and junior defender Sam McAdam of Portland scored his first of the season for Clark University in a recent loss to Lasell. Two of the goals were man-down goals. Garrett McAdam has 10 goals and six assists through nine games, while Sam McAdam has one goal, one assist and 16 ground balls.

WOMEN’S LACROSSE

Three local athletes are playing well for Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. The Continentals are ranked third in the nation. Sophomore midfielder Kate Otley of Cumberland (Greely) had 13 goals, four assists, 16 ground balls and 19 draw controls through 11 games.

Sophomore midfielder Ashley Allen of South Portland (Waynflete) had nine goals and 10 ground balls. Freshman midfielder Mariah Monks of Cape Elizabeth (Waynflete) had two goals, one assist and seven ground balls.

SOFTBALL

Junior infielder Brennan Balfour of Cape Elizabeth set single-season records for home runs and RBI and tied the career home run mark for Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. Balfour hit two home runs in a doubleheader sweep of Wilkes University, giving her a school-record eight homers for the season and a record-tying 10 in her career. Then, in a doubleheader sweep of Drew University, Balfour got her record-setting 33rd RBI of the season. The team also set a record for wins in a season (24) with the sweep.

Sophomore catcher Megan Blier of Wells was batting .319 for Bentley after 22 games.

Pine Manor senior catcher Courtney Wallace of Steep Falls (Bonny Eagle) was recently named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference player of the week after hitting .538 and hitting three home runs in four games.

TRACK AND FIELD

Several local athletes participated in the George Davis Invitational at UMass-Lowell, led by Keene (N.H.) State senior Allison Chamberlain of Scarborough. She won the 1,500 in 4:43.60 and placed third in the 400 in 59.36 seconds. Bentley senior Monika Czurylo of Portland (Deering) was 11th in the 200 (28.36 seconds).

In the men’s invitational, Wheaton freshman Sam Fear of Bath (North Yarmouth Academy) set a school record in the javelin with a throw of 180 feet, 2 inches, placing second. Bentley freshman Craig Robinson of Scarborough was ninth in the 1,500 with a personal-best time of 4:04.11.

Bates freshman Erin Augulewicz of Eliot (Marshwood) was part of the 400 relay team that set a school record of 50.61 seconds in the Jim Sheehan Memorial Meet at Fitchburg (Mass.) State. She was one of three freshmen on the relay team. The previous record (50.79) was set in 1988.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

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