By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
Every coach preaches the importance of getting ahead of hitters, but too few have the ability to consistently master the art.
In the case of St. Hubert junior Melissa Robinson, she not only throws first-pitch strikes, she seems to throw strikes on every single offering.
“I always trust our defense,” said Robinson. “We have great fielders. Whenever the ball gets hit, I always assume we’ll make the play.”
In St. Hubert’s 2-0 Catholic League championship victory over Archbishop Wood May 22 at Arcadia University, Robinson didn’t do anything differently than she has for the entire year. The Bambies’ opponent expected to receive strikes from their opponent hurler, and that they did.
But like just about every team Robinson has faced, the Vikings could not mount any offense against a Hubert’s team that only lost one Catholic League game this spring while successfully defending the championship earned last year, the first in school history.
The Bambies went on to defeat Central High 14-0 for the district title May 28, and June 1 they stunned Pennsbury 2-0 to advance to the state quarterfinals. Their next game is scheduled for today.
“She is not the fastest pitcher in the Catholic League,” said Hubert’s coach Dave Schafer. “We do a lot of scouting and take notes on players who we will probably face again. Melissa can throw the ball exactly where we want it. She hardly ever walks anybody. I don’t remember the last time she did.”
In Hubert’s 23 games, 20 have been wins. During their current 11-game winning streak, the Bambies have outscored the opposition by an unfathomable 70-2. For the entire season, Robinson has issued a minuscule 18 free passes while striking out 171. While the latter statistic is excellent, its average of less than eight whiffs a game pales in comparison to some other pitchers in the area.
And that brings everything back to the stingy St. Hubert defense and opportunistic hitting, which has an amazing ability to produce runs thanks to “small ball” – bunts, stolen bases, advancing runners, etc. That is how softball is played; relying on big bats to carry you to victory can only go so far.
“We work very hard on our defense every practice,” said sophomore shortstop Brittany Meehan, who Schafer said was overlooked by this year’s All-Catholic committee. “When you have a pitcher like Melissa, you know she is going to either strike someone out or make them hit it. So we’re always prepared to make a play.”
Schafer, who as a head coach at Bishop Conwell (now Conwell-Egan) won 12 Catholic League titles, doesn’t mention his past success to his players.
“That was a different time,” he said. “I don’t even mention it. We’re totally committed to this program.”
Asked if he has any advice for other coaches who would be thrilled with even a fraction of the 14 overall titles on his resume, Schafer offered something he calls the “Oreo theory.”
“When you have to instruct, start and end by being positive and put the negative somewhere in the middle,” he said. “It’s not about me or the coaches. The players here are totally dedicated to what we’re doing here. I told them we’d have a bull’s eye on our back because we were the defending champion. Our girls responded with confidence, but not cockiness.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103