By Jack Williams
Sports Information Director Emeritus
|Jack Williams just recently retired after a 21-year stint as the Sports Information Director at Virginia Tech. Throughout a distinguished and award-wining career in college athletics and sports journalism, he has also served as Sports Information Director at North Carolina, as well as Assistant Sports Editor of both the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and The News & Observer of Raleigh. He recently joined the Georgia Tech Sports Information Office as Sports Information Director Emeritus. His column will be a weekly feature on Ramblinwreck.com|
Someone asked Georgia Tech softball star Anne Knobbe how to pronounce her last name. She said, “Just think ‘Star Wars,’ and the good guy Obi Wan Kenobi and you’ve got it.”
That’s entirely fitting because Knobbe has been out of this world soaring into space all softball season.
The Tech junior catcher from Brea, Calif., leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in most everything except stolen towels, as the old saying goes. She is first in home runs (9), runs batted in (59) and likely in baserunners thrown out (23). She is third in batting average, hitting .369. This season’s RBI numbers match the two-year total she posted in 1997 and 1998.
But Knobbe hopes the best may be yet to come.
She and her teammates are looking forward to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament this weekend (May 14-16) in Tallahassee, Fla. Tech faces Virginia in the first round Friday at 3 p.m. and North Carolina battles Florida State at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Maryland gets a first round bye.
“The ACC Tournament gives us a chance to redeem ourselves and prove we are a better team than we have shown so far,” she said. “We have the potential to do so much.”
She also looks forward to her senior season next year.
“I think we will be a much better team next season,” she said. “My goal will be to hit the ball more consistently. I had a two week slump this year when I couldn’t get a hit to save my life.”
No one who follows Georgia Tech softball can remember Knobbe slumping for long. What the fans remember most is her long-range power. She is Tech’s all-time leader with 22 career home runs. She had four as a freshman and nine each of the last two seasons. And guess which homer is the most memorable?
|Junior catcher Anne Knobbe’s opponents aren’t sure how to pronounce her last name, but there’s litte doubt of the damage she’s done to ACC pitching staffs.|
“It was the very first one I hit my freshman year,” she said. “It came in a game here against North Carolina. We were behind 3-1 in the last inning. It was the old story, the bases loaded, two outs, a 3-2 count and I hit a grand slam home run to win the game, 5-3. That’s one I will not forget.”
She swept Rookie of the Year honors in the ACC that season and last year made second team All-ACC. She is a candidate for Player of the Year this season.
First-year head Coach Kate Madden says Knobbe is clearly the heart and soul of the Tech team.
“Without Anne, this team would not be half as successful as it is,” the coach said. “That is not to take anything away from the other players. The numbers Anne have put up have won games for us consistently. She is easily our best hitter with runners in scoring position and she is great under pressure.”
Despite Knobbe’s heroics, the Tech team has not been able to produce a winning record and currently is 21-36.
Knobbe says Coach Madden and her assistant, Sara Graziano, are excellent coaches who will get Tech on the winning track in years to come.
“They have a great knowledge of the game,” she said. “There is no question they have made us better players individually. It’s just too bad that doesn’t show in the won-loss record. In my opinion, our team is mentally young. We have not been able to build confidence. We have had trouble putting it together.”
Knobbe said she has noticed a difference in the team attitude in recent games. “I think we are turning things around,” she said. “In recent games, we have come out relaxed and just had fun. It seems all of a sudden, there is no great pressure on us. That’s the attitude we have got to keep to be successful.”
Something else happened late this season that made winning in softball suddenly seem so unimportant. The shooting seige at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado that shocked the nation and the world had a strong and very personal impact on the Tech softball camp.
Second baseman Susanne Miller, a sophomore on the Tech team, attended Columbine and was coached there in softball by Dave Sanders, the only teacher who was shot and killed in the recent tragedy.
“We are wearing a patch on our uniforms out of respect for our teammate and in memory of those who were killed,” Knobbe said.” The patch reads ‘CHS’. Susanne flew home for the funeral of her former coach. We have tried not to talk about it too much because it obviously is something Susanne has had a tough time dealing with.”
Knobbe has been playing softball since she was five years old and suited up for T-Ball games in Brea, her hometown community located near Los Angeles. She occasionally played first base early in her career, but has been strictly a catcher throughout her college days.
Knobbe majors in electrical engineering and made the dean’s list every quarter her first two years at Tech. Not so this school year.
“The courses have become harder for one thing,” she said, “and I’ve missed a lot of class time because of the softball travel.”
Knobbe worked in her home community last summer for the Raytheon Corporation in a division that specializes in military defense security systems. She found that work quite interesting and might like a career working in that field or one similar to it.
In the meantime, Knobbe has a lot of softball games ahead of her.
“I love playing the game’ she said. “And catching is a real challenge. You have to think ahead on every pitch. It is the catcher’s responsibility to call the play on every opponent’s time at bat. You must be aware of such things as where the ball is hit, how fast is the runner, how strong is the fielder’s throwing arm. You have to make instant decisions.”
Knobbe spends a lot of time in the weight room and firmly believes that her work there has added power to her baseball swing.
“I was into weights in high school,” she said, “but my interest has really grown here. Tech has so much better facilities than I had as a high schooler.”
Knobbe is a fun-loving young lady who enjoys a variety of activities, among them jet skiing and body boarding (catching the ocean waves while lying on a board rather than standing to surf). She also enjoys baseball. She pulls for the Angels in Anaheim, a community close to her hometown. She also pulls for the Atlanta Braves on occasion.
Most of all, she is pulling for the Tech softball team and working hard to achieve the goals she and her teammates have set. Tech has a head start to good things as long as Anne Knobbe is in the lineup.