July 12, 2013

MORNING SENTINEL SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shelby Obert

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Softball has stolen a few terms from baseball over the years. Still, one term you don't hear very often about softball players in the area is: Five-tool player.

click image to enlarge

SHELBY OBERT

Staff photo / Michael G. Seamans

Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel All-Stars

First Team
P —
Emily McKenney, Jr., Madison
P — Sonja Morse, Sr., Cony
C — Alyssah Dennett, Cony
1B — Becky Orcutt, Jr., Nokomis
2B — Sierra LeBlanc, Madison
SS — Arika Brochu, Cony
3B — Shelby Obert, Sr., Skowhegan
OF — Paige Belanger, Lawrence
OF — Carolyn Newhouse, MCI
OF — Courtney Veilleux, Sr., Messalonskee
UT — Taylor Banister, Sr., Gardinerو

Second Team
P —
Kassi Michaud, Messalonskee
P — Kortni Michaud, Oak Hill
C — Cat Ouellette, Winthrop
1B — Molly Russell, Cony
2B — Maggie Russell, Cony
SS — Ali LeClair, Sr., Winslow
3B — Taylor Lovley, Nokomis
OF — Kylee Granholm, Gardiner
OF — Erika Parker, Madison
OF — Phoebe Pelletier, Messalonskee
UT — Lacey Kent-Webber, Nokomis
Honorable mention
Carrabec
: Paige Chadbourne, Ashlee Knight, Brooklynne Lewis; Cony: Olivia Deeves; Erskine: Alison Gauvin, Avery Bond, Taylor Boucher, Alyssa Gartley; Forest Hills: Anna Carrier, Haley Cuddy, Jocelyn Hoyt, Dana McNally; Gardiner: Kristal Smith, Bri Brochu, Brittany Rollins; Hall-Dale: Natasha Brown, Olivia Maynard, Morgan Rush, Emily Maynard; Kents Hill: Nina Murray, Emma Curnin; Savanna Poole; Lawrence: Allison Blaisdell, Sarah Martin; Madison: Kayla Booker, Samantha Bruce, Aly LeBlanc, Kirsten Wood: Maranacook: Jessie Smith, Ashley Michaud Ashley Belanger; MCI: Courtney Fowler, Kat Smedberg, Katelyn Sousa; Messalonskee: Nikki Collier, Kylee Knight, Natalie Hunt; Monmouth: Kylie Kemp, Daisi Poole, Bri Hicks; Mt. Abram: Jill Howard, Katie Jordan, Taylor Jordan; Mt. Blue: Kiana Thompson. Mt. View: Kersey Boulay; Nokomis: Danielle George, Becky Orcutt, Sierra Fortin. Oak Hill: Alyssa Rouleau, Kelsey Collins, Kayla Veilleux; Rangeley: Taylor Esty, Tori Letarte, Blayke Morin; Richmond: Jamie Plummer, Noell Acord, Bri Snedeker, Payton Johnson, Ciarra Lancaster; Skowhegan: Taylor Johnson, Andrea Quirion, Kaitlyn Therriault; Valley: Teagan Laweryson, Kirsten Mathieu, Kyla White; Waterville: Michaela DeVogt; Winslow: Brooke Haskell, Megan Richards. Winthrop: Randi Dennett, Krissy Doughty, Lily Ouellette.

But what better way to describe Skowhegan's Shelby Obert?

Hitting? Obert batted .508 this season and drove in 24 runs. Hitting with power? She had 10 doubles, four triples and four home runs among her 33 hits, giving her a slugging percentage of .969.

Running? Obert stole 18 bases this year and scored 30 runs.

Fielding? Obert was one of the best defensive third basemen in the state.

Throwing? She has an A-plus arm.

All of that makes Obert the choice for the Morning Sentinel Softball Player of the Year. Madison pitcher Emily McKenney, who hit .533 and was 19-2 with a 1.79 ERA, was also considered.

For many years, Obert was a baseball player and a gymnast. It wasn't until about six years ago that Obert switched from baseball to softball.

"I was pretty familiar with her dad," Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. "He talked about how she was playing baseball and she loved it. I said, 'Well, at some point, she's going to have to make the switch over to softball.' "

"When I was like 12, Coach Johnson just kept calling me and calling me and asking me to play," Obert said. "I just tried it one time and I fell in love. I loved baseball and I never thought I would stop."

Obert quickly realized the biggest difference between baseball and softball.

"The release points," she said. "It was completely different and I couldn't hit forever. It was awful. I remember freshman year, I was the No. 9 batter and all I did was bunt. I could not hit the ball to save my life."

Johnson said it was a case of Obert having a long, or baseball, swing.

"She didn't have a bad swing, but her timing was not great as a hitter," Johnson said. "It was an adjustment for her, but you could tell immediately that she was a really athletic kid."

Both Johnson and Obert say the biggest reason for her improvement was playing at the Edge Academy (formerly Frozen Ropes). Once Obert made the team, she would travel three hours round-trip every Sunday to practice for three hours.

"All that hard work really paid off, because when she became a junior, she went from being a bunter to a very dangerous hitter," Johnson said.

As the hitting came along, Obert's other tools also evolved. Doing gymnastics for more than a decade taught her to run in a straight line. While she had to give up gymnastics because her joints couldn't take it anymore -- "I got old," she jokes -- running right at a fielder in a rundown made it tougher for the thrower to get a good look at her target.

That was how Obert was on base to score the winning run in the quarterfinals against Edward Little. A rundown throw hit Obert in the back of the helmet and she went to third. From there, she scored on a sacrifice fly and the Indians won, 1-0.

Even Obert's running on that sacrifice fly was impressive, as Edward Little shortstop Danny Rock made a marvelous diving catch behind third base. Johnson was coaching third and he said that as he turned to tell Obert to tag up, she was already waiting on the bag to see if Rock would make the catch. Plays like that are the reason Obert always had a green light and in fact just about all of those 18 stolen bases were when she ran on her own.

(Continued on page 2)

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