The Good Word | by Jon Cooper
It’s no surprise Skye Webb hit the ground running her sophomore season for Georgia Tech Softball.
The speedy, sophomore left fielder loves hitting the ground — figuratively and literally.
“I love diving. Diving is my favorite thing,” said the Temecula, Calif., native. “I played volleyball from the time I think I was 7 to 15. So I miss volleyball but I think it’s the reason I love diving so much. I can bring my volleyball diving to the softball field. That’s nice.”
Georgia Tech head coach Aileen Morales finds it nice watching Webb in the field.
“She’s made some great plays out here, laying out,” said Morales. “She has just continually worked to get better. That’s what we want, somebody pushing themselves to get better every single day.”
Webb has been pushing herself pretty much her entire single day of her life. For Skye, it was a case of push or be pushed, as she’s the middle child of five, with all four of her siblings brothers — her older brothers are 26 and 23, her younger brothers are 11-year-old twins.
“I feel like it’s the reason I’m really tough,” she said. “I slide in or make crazy plays, something like that and people are like ‘Why did you do that? or ‘How did you do that?’ I’m like, ‘I grew up with all boys.’
“It’s super-competitive,” she added. “It’s stuff where we’d be like playing ping-pong downstairs, we’re diving for ping-pong balls and stuff like that. We’re always competing. Everything is a competition.”
It’s easy to see where the competitiveness comes from — mom, Sheri Clark, and dad, Karim Webb.
“My mom and dad would be going at it playing ping-pong and then get in an argument because my dad beat my mom by one,” she said, adding with a laugh. “It’s always been crazy.”
Skye credits her mom with maybe the craziest competition and for giving her the diving gene and her fearlessness.
“Outside in the driveway (she and her brothers) would play in the concrete,” she recalled. “My mom’s a lawyer, she came home from court one day and slid at home plate in her suit. I think that’s the craziest thing.”
Webb has been crazy good this season in what is becoming a really nice bounce-back story. She endured an injury-hampered freshman season where she played 32 games (six starts) and struggled at the plate, batting .080 (2-for-25). Yet she still found a way to contribute, primarily as a pinch-runner, leading the team in stolen bases, with three thefts in four tries.
But that adversity set the stage for an offseason of hard work and a return to health. This season, Skye has been getting healthy on opposing pitching.
Heading into this week’s midweek road back-to-backs at Troy then Furman, Webb is hitting .354, with 29 hits (both second on the team, behind only Breanna Roper’s .453, sixth in the ACC and 43, second in the league), with a .430 on-base percentage (third), and two homers, 17 RBIs (both tied for fifth) and 38 total bases (sixth). As expected, she’s leading the team in stolen bases, seven, in seven attempts.
This is the healthy Skye Webb. The one who was a four-year letterwinner and two-year captain at Temecula Valley High School, where she’d leave as the Golden Bears’ career stolen bases leader, and more like the player the Jackets were hoping to see in 2018.
“We didn’t really get a good sample last year of what she was capable of because she was working through (injuries),” said Morales. “That’s why for me, it’s exciting to see her healthy and being able to compete and be in the middle of the lineup for us.
“She’s picking good pitches to hit, she hits for power. Actually, she’s slapped a bit more so she’s really worked on her swing and swinging away,” Morales added. “She’s done a great job of being a lefty bat for us. Last year we had one lefty bat in the lineup. Now we have three that we can mix through. So it’s nice to complement the righties. She’s done a nice job. She’s done a lot of work to get on the field.”
She isn’t showing any signs of stopping that work.
“I really take advantage of extra reps and opportunities,” said Webb. “I call Coach Reese (Mariconda) a lot and ask her to come and help me with my swing and watch a lot of video to see what I need to work on. Even between at-bats I ask the coaches what they saw in my at-bat and what I can change.”
“Skye puts in a ton of work outside of practice which has allowed her to take ownership of her swing and approach,” said Mariconda. “This has given her the ability to perform in clutch situations for our team and that is why she has been able to consistently contribute offensively.”
Consistency has been a trademark this season. She’s hit in 20 of the Jackets’ 28 games, with a seven-game hitting streak (second only to Roper’s 10-gamer) and has only gone hitless in back-to-back games twice all season — in of those games she contributed with an RBI and a stolen base in one and two runs scored in another.
Morales, who understands playing fast — she is the program’s all-time steals leader (154, 41 ahead of second-place Ashley Thomas) — likes the versatility Webb brings.
“She has good speed, so when she hits the ball in the gap she has a chance for extra bases,” she said. “She gets good reads. She’s just a good ball player out there. It’s exciting. I’m proud of her.”
Webb likes being exciting and creating excitement on the bases.
“I feel like me being on the bases, my goal is to distract the pitcher,” she said. “If I can get a big lead and hear the dugout say I’m going, even if I’m not stealing a base, I feel like that really takes away from the pitcher throwing strikes. So that’s my main goal, just to distract the pitcher and the pitching coach. I feel like that will make a difference.”
The difference she makes has been obvious. The Jackets are 11-2 when Webb scores a run and 6-0 in games where she steals a base.
Being a difference-maker and something of a dare-devilish agitator follows the M.O. of her idol, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig — former-Dodger is how Webb prefers to describe him.
“Yasiel Puig is my inspiration. That’s why I’m No. 66,” she said. “I just try to do what he does out there. It’ll be hard because I love him and I love the Dodgers but I’m still a Puig fan.”
There’s only one other thing that Skye loves more than the Dodgers or Puig.
“I love defense. I love defense. I love defense,” she said. “I feel like my parents hyped me up a lot on defense so I feel like I’m pretty confident when it comes to defense.”
She’s also confident about her and her teammates’ ability to meet the challenge that awaits over the next eight days — a brutal, six-game road stretch with midweek games at Troy on Tuesday, Furman on Wednesday, Chapel Hill to face North Carolina over the weekend, and finally Tuscaloosa, to face No. 4/5 Alabama, next Wednesday.
“We just get in a mindset of ‘Never take a day off, come out on the field ready every day,’” she said. “As a team we like to come in and get extra reps. So we can always rely on each other if we need to come in the cage and do extra reps. As long as we continue to work hard and put our best foot forward, every day is an opportunity to win a ball game.”