Sacopee Valley softball coach Tim Vacchiano took an interesting approach to dealing with pitcher Michelle Libby in the beginning of the season.
“We just babied her,” Vacchiano said of the sophomore who was coming off a total knee reconstruction and meniscus replacement after she injured her leg during basketball season.
“We told her not to field the ball,” he added. “We told her to let balls go by her; if they’re gonna bunt, just let it go. A hit or run here or there, I can deal with that.”
But as the Hawks of Hiram advanced through the Western Maine Class C tournament and Libby is getting healthier, Vacchiano has a new philosophy.
“We’ve thrown that stuff out the window,” he said Thursday before practice. “Now we want to win.”
Sacopee is trying for its second straight Class C state title and will meet Eastern Maine champion Houlton in one of four state finals Saturday.
The Hawks and the Shiretowners open up action at Gorham High with an 11 a.m. game. The Class A final featuring Brewer and Portland will start at 4 p.m.
At Brewer’s Coffin Field, Eastern Maine Class D champ Ashland will face West No. 2 seed Richmond, a 5-1 winner over No. 5 North Yarmouth Academy in Thursday night’s WM title game.
The Class D state final will be played at noon followed by the Class B matchup of Winslow-Maranacook at 4 p.m.
The Hawks gained their second straight state title berth with a 5-0 win over Georges Valley of Thomaston in the Western Maine final. Libby (11-2) threw a three-hitter.
Libby’s numbers are down a bit this year from her stellar freshman season, but that’s because the knee injury and recovery have made it hard for her to field balls she would normally get to with ease.
Still, she allowed nine earned runs in 93 innings for a 0.67 ERA. Libby (12-2) has 131 strikeouts, 13 walks, and three hit batters, and has given up 17 runs and 42 hits.
Last year she went 14-0 with 166 strikeouts and 17 walks in 95 innings. She fanned 15 and allowed two hits in last year’s 6-1 win over Central of Corinth in the Class C state final.
In three Western Maine tourney games this year, Libby has allowed one run, seven hits, and one walk while striking out 16.
Libby is also one of Sacopee’s top hitters, along with catcher Katie Pike, third baseman Elise White, and shortstop Shaila Delea. The Hawks have seen production through the whole lineup during the playoffs, however.
“That’s been the great thing about us,” Vacchiano said. “You can take your pick of who’s had the big hits. We’ve had big hits from our seven, eight and nine batters.”
Libby is back doing all the fielding she once did even if she’s not totally healed yet.
“She’s a competitor,” Vacchiano said. “She wants to be out there. She told me, ‘I’m your best pitcher. You have the best chance to win with me. I can do it.’ And she’s right.”