FAIRFIELD — Everyone has doubts, even all-state softball players.
Recent Vanden High graduate Rochelle Roberts wasn’t sure about playing softball collegiately after passing on summer ball in 2012.
A stellar 2013 season with the Vikings followed by a solid campaign with the East Bay-based Sorcerers this summer changed her mind.
The beneficiary is University of Louisiana at Monroe, which Roberts chose school over North Dakota State and UTEP.
“I didn’t play summer ball last year,” said Roberts, who made the 2013 Cal-Hi Sports Second Team and was the Daily Republic 2012-13 Prep Girls Athlete of the Year. “I was thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m going to play in college.’ After high school I gave it one last at shot summer ball and it worked out for me.”
Vanden coach Don Wakefield is thrilled to see one of the truly great players in Vikings history keep going.
“Oh man, that’s fantastic,” he said. “I wish her all the best, she knows that. I want all the good stuff for her. She’s going to do great.”
Roberts credits her last season with the Vikings for changing her thinking. According to Maxpreps.com, she batted a sizzling .562, drove in 37 runs and ripped three home runs, eight triples and six doubles.
Roberts was also the Vikings’ top pitcher, going 21-8 with a 1.04 earned run average and 220 strikeouts in 175 innings.
“Really it was high school, being around all the girls again,” Roberts said of her change in thinking. “They definitely helped reassure me. I think there was a little doubt in myself going to the next level. This summer convinced me I can compete with these girls. I’d just psyched myself out.”
Roberts visited both NDSU and Louisiana-Monroe and simply had a better feeling about the latter.
“It was kind of the feel and the environment, it felt most comfortable,” she said. “I chose it on my own. I went to Louisiana on my own and toured around the campus. It felt comfortable. I could see myself living there.”
Roberts will be a long way from home but she’s not totally unfamiliar with the neighborhood. According to Wakefield, she’s a big fan of the cable show “Duck Dynasty,” which is filmed largely in West Monroe, La., the next town over.
“That’s one of her favorite shows,” said Wakefield, who’s also a fan of the series.
After pitching for most of her four years at Vanden, Roberts will play the outfield for the Warhawks.
“I didn’t put enough time and effort in to make myself be a college pitcher,” Roberts said.
Making the adjustment to the outfield won’t be a problem, according to Wakefield.
“She’s got D-I speed, no doubt about it,” the coach said. “Talking with coaches earlier, if she didn’t pitch (they said) she could play any infield (position) and can play the outfield.”
Roberts had planned to play on the infield with the Sorcerers, but an elbow injury suffered late in Vanden’s season prompted the move to the outfield.
“It kind of stuck with me, I kind of enjoyed it,” Roberts said. “I have good enough speed. Chasing down balls is fun. I enjoyed it.”
The Warhawks should enjoy having Roberts in the lineup. They batted just .217 as a team while going 19-35 in 2013. No player batted over .300 and only three hit higher than .275.
“There’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to tear it up, she’s going to hit at that level,” Wakefield said. “No doubt in my mind she’s going to do great. . . . She hits with authority, it’s on the line, its on a button. It’s not a fluke.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.