Skipjacks Ricks, Robinson named to first team
Lowenberger, Labille on all-Region XX softball second team
Chesapeake College sophomores Tiffeny Ricks and Kelsi Robinson one a local product and the other part of the Skipjacks’ national (and at times international) women’s softball recruiting efforts were each named to the all-NJCAA Division II Region XX first team.
Ricks, a catcher from Colonel Richardson High, and Robinson, a pitcher recruited from Southern Maryland’s Huntingtown High, were named to the first team after leading the Skipjacks to a 24-win season. They also helped produce a school-record 50 victories over the last two years.
"Tiffeny is a perfect example for other local players to follow," said Chesapeake head coach Durrie Hayes. "She was a good player coming out of Colonel Richardson and she continued to improve. She really matured as a person and as a player during her time here."
Robinson, meanwhile, was recruited out of Hayes’ ever-expanding recruitment territory. One of three recent recruits out of Southern Maryland which has already provided two members of next year’s freshman class Robinson impressed Hayes right from the start.
"When she came and worked out, I loved her intensity. She gives you absolutely 100 percent all the time," said Hayes. "Right then, I knew I wanted her. People said, ’She’s little, she doesn’t throw hard, she had success because she played at Huntingtown.’ But she just has a tremendous will to succeed."
Ricks hit .445 and finished with a team-high 41 RBI and 33 runs scored. Robinson put together an 11-10 record with a 2.83 earned-run average in addition to hitting .351 and scoring a team-high 45 runs.
"Kelsi works on her pitching, she’s a great outfielder, she hits well, she runs the bases well," said Hayes. "To her credit, she overachieved. She did better than people told me she was going to do because you can’t measure desire."
Sophomore second baseman Janean Lowenberger and freshman pitcher Amber Labille were named to the all-Region XX second team. Lowenberger hit .418 and scored 32 runs, batting a torrid .494 over the last two-thirds of the season after starting 8-for-33 (.242). Labille led the team in pitching victories while compiling a 13-9 record, 2.10 ERA, and 101 strikeouts to just 48 walks.
Lowenberger was recruited out of Canada while Labille came from Hayes’ more conventional Southern Maryland pipeline via Lackey High School.
"I tell the recruits . . . ’My shortstop (Becca English) is from Fort Myers, Florida, and my second baseman is from Saskatchewan, Canada.’ This is a good school with a good program that attracts people from all over," said Hayes.
Labille, meanwhile, was another example of the Skipjacks recruiting good players out of programs that weren’t traditional powerhouses.
"Jordan Wright is a perfect example of a great player who wasn’t going to get noticed because she didn’t come from a great program," Hayes said of his former all-American, who played at North Dorchester High. "Amber was from a similar situation. Lackey didn’t have a great program. That doesn’t make her a bad pitcher. They (other colleges) either didn’t see her or overlooked her and we didn’t."
Hayes is thrilled to have landed Labille, even if her pitching style increases her coach’s blood pressure.
"She throws more pitches than anyone on earth. It’s never ’Strike one, strike two, strike three,’ but I look at the end of game and she’s walked none, or one or two," said Hayes with a laugh. "I tell her, ’If you can throw those strikes, thrown them early. That will add some years to my life.’ "
Hayes realized an unexpected bonus when Robinson and Labille became fast friends, which their coach said played a part in the team’s 2.44 ERA.
"Kelsi and Amber were buddies. They really supported each other and that really helped our program," said Hayes, who is bringing in pitchers from Pennsylvania and Indiana to complement Labille next season.
Hayes was pleased to have four all-region selections from his team, which further validated a 24-19 record that were the most losses in Hayes’ four seasons.
"The 19 losses bothers me," said Hayes, whose squad started 0-5 in the loaded NFCA Leadoff Classic. "I’ll tell you there’s no such thing as a good loss, but in that first tournament we were willing to sacrifice five games to continue building our name.
"People won’t remember the score of the Chipola game, but they’ll remember we were at the No. 1 tournament in the country," said Hayes. "That helps for recruiting and to get our kids noticed for all-region and all-American, particularly NFCA (all-American team)."
Hayes said his team’s real issue wasn’t the record Chesapeake managed an impressive 13-5 conference mark but its inability to win close games on a consistent basis.
"If you’re going to be a really top-level team, you have to win close games. For some reason, this year the confidence was not there," said Hayes. "But we certainly didn’t fold ever. There was no quit in them and you’ve got to love that."
Hayes said the Skipjacks will miss all seven sophomores Ricks, Robinson, Lowenberger, English, Anna Morris, Chelsea Hunt, and Alycia Vansant who formed the core of a program that won 50 games over the past two seasons.
"There were maybe four games all season that we weren’t right in the game three in Florida and the 6-0 loss to Cecil," said Hayes. "The record is deceiving with the 19 losses. If you saw us play, you knew nobody wanted to play us on purpose."
Hayes expects the Skipjacks to stay among the state and region elite next year.
"We’ve got good players coming back and good players coming in," said Hayes.
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