ATLANTA (April 24) – Just as the ever popular Jedi teacher/master Obi-Wan Knobi taught Luke Skywalker the meaning of “using the force”and applying that inner-peace to help find success, senior catcher Anne Knobbe (Brea, Calif.) has been playing for the Georgia Tech softball team this season and using that inner peace.
For the past two years, Knobbe, whose name incidentally is pronounced the same way as the last name of Obi-Wan, has been the steady, consistent leader for her team, both behind the plate, and in the batters’ box. She has started the past 119 games at catcher and along the way has broken virtually every offensive record for the Jackets. But, it has not been until this year that she’s felt she has “used the force” to her advantage.
“I have always been a powerful hitter, but my average my first two years was not that great,” said Knobbe, who was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1997. “In my first three years, I went through periods where I would hit a major slump, and just could not get out of them. But, this year, things have been much more consistent, and overall I have improved the numbers I put up in my first two seasons.”
Going into her senior season, Knobbe had a .310 career batting average, batting .362 her junior year. This year, the all-America candidate has been over .400 all season. She currently sits at .401, but had a stretch in late March where she was batting .475. She had 23 career home runs entering this year and this year has blasted 16.
And the biggest reason for the change?
“My mental game this year has changed completely,” said Knobbe. “Both Coach Madden and Coach Graziano have taught me how to concentrate on the positive things and not dwell at all on the bad. When I have a bad at-bat, I now think about the last time I have hit the ball well and don’t even think about the out I’ve made before.”
Head coach Kate Madden agrees.
“What has impressed me the most about Anne this season is her mental approach,” said Madden. “In the past, she’s always gone through a period of time where she would get frustrated with things and not play the way she is capable of playing and let little things get to her. This year, everytime she steps into the box, she’s been the same, confident person. She does not worry about her last at-bat, she gets up to the plate to do one thing, and that is to make good contact. The fact she has been able to have that outlook for an entire season is just amazing.”
As she has done all season, Knobbe leads her team into the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament this weekend in Tallahasse, Fla. The Jackets will face Virginia in the opening round of the tournament at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Jackets currently have a 25-29 record, 2-6 in conference play. Although the records do not seem impressive, Knobbe has been pleased with the season her team has had.
“Our all-around play has definitely improved a lot this year and we have competed in every single game we have played in. We just haven’t been able to push it over into the win-loss column, and it’s unfortunate because we are a much better team. For example, we didn’t even come close to winning a conference game last year, and this year we won two against a great Florida State team. I wish we could have won a few more of our close games, but I have been very happy with the season we have had.”
Even as her career comes to a close, Knobbe’s name will be long remembered in the Jacket record book. She will leave as the career leader in home runs (39), RBI (171), doubles (40), slugging percentage (.590) and walks (72), and will be in the top five of categories for hits (212) and batting average (.333). And, to no one’s surprise, she was honored as the Outstanding Female Athlete for Georgia Tech this year.
“I felt extremely honored to receive that award. There are so many great female athletes here at Tech, and to be singled out to win that award was hard to believe.”
Knobbe, who will graduate in December with a degree in Electrical Engineering, is excited about this year’s tournament and believes her team has an excellent chance to win.
“We have been so close in so many games, that if we can pull together and be mentally prepared to play solid for three days, I really believe we could win the whole thing.”
Is there anything that Knobbe will miss about not being on the field next year?
“It’s been an amazing four years, and it will be strange to not have softball as such a major part of my life in the future. But, I have worked very hard for my degree and am excited about the opportunity to enter the work field and apply what I’ve learned. I do have a younger sister, so who knows, maybe I’ll get the chance to help her game.”
If her younger sister is smart, she’ll ask Anne to show her how to “use the force” and keep that force in the family.