Written by Mark Griffin
Woodmore softball coach Aaron Clouse said it best when describing the athlete in junior pitcher Sami Michaelis.
“Softball is her sport,” he said. “She puts a huge amount of time, physically and mentally, into preparing for the season.”
Michaelis, who has helped bring the Wildcats’ program back to respectability, said softball “comes pretty easy.” In other words, she could play 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I just really like playing softball,” said Michaelis, who also plays basketball and golf at Woodmore. “Getting me out to go to practice is not hard work at all. You say you want to go bat in the cages for an hour — I’m there. Or, go practice hard before an Elmwood game — I’m there. There's no question about it.”
Through Wednesday, Woodmore was 13-7 and 6-4 in the Suburban Lakes League. One reason for the Wildcats’ solid record is Michaelis’ presence on the mound, where she is 13-7 with a 1.32 ERA.
She has allowed 99 hits and 50 walks in 137 innings, with 191 strikeouts.
“She’s having a great season,” Clouse said. “She’s pitched every game and won 13 games for us. She mixes it up and keeps hitters off balance. Her strikeout to walk ratio is excellent. She makes them earn everything they get.”
A three-year starter, Michaelis was an honorable mention All-SLL pick last season, when she went 13-11.
This year, she threw a no-hitter against Lake in a 1-0 victory and tossed a perfect game (five innings) in a win over Arcadia. On Monday, she one-hit Lake in another 1-0 Woodmore win.
Pitch-wise, Michaelis admitted she is able to throw “almost everything there is.”
“This season my best breaking ball is my screwball and my curve drop,” she said. “I can consistently throw those for strikes, with batters swinging and fouling them off or breaking enough they think it's a strike and then it breaks out of the zone.”
Michaelis said one of her goals this season was to limit her number of walks. She had a stretch this season where she had 13 walks in two games, but otherwise she has been pretty much dead-on.
“I came out wanting to lower my walks, just to get people off the bases so my team can focus on things they can control,” Michaelis said. “I needed to help them out by not putting people on base. I just went out there looking for a win. I wasn't going out there looking for stats.”
The Wildcats’ goal this season was to finish above .500 and win at least 17 games. They are on their way, which is kind of amazing given the fact that a couple years ago Woodmore was struggling just to win a single SLL game.
“We’re just really excited to turn around the program,” Michaelis said. “Two or three years ago we were finishing well below .500 and struggling to get a win in the league.”
In January, Michaelis played for a North American Select team that played in Amsterdam in January. The U.S. contingent was in Amsterdam for eight days and seven nights.
“As a team, we struggled at first,” she said. “We ended up not placing well in our bracket. But we turned around and did really well. I pitched in four games and I struggled a little at first. It was indoors, so I had to get used to that.
“You’re against 26- and 30-year-olds from other countries. They have a little bit more experience and it's a little tougher and different. It was a great experience.”
Michaelis, who started pitching at age 8, has a personal pitching coach in Nicole Long, who comes to Oregon every month for two-hour lessons with Michaelis and other area pitchers.
“I’ve been with her for three years,” Michaelis said. “She’s definitely gotten my speed and my form to a better point than it was.”
As Woodmore’s lone starter – she has started every game for the Wildcats the last two seasons – Michaelis knows she carries her team’s fortunes on every pitch. It can be a lot of pressure for a young pitcher, but she said she takes it all in stride.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I just try to stay focused and go with everything and do my best for the team,” Michaelis said. “I’ll think about a game a lot, like during study hall, and think about who’s been hitting well.
“When I get to the ball diamond, I let it go. I’ll store that in the back of my head. When someone comes up, I will remember to throw a certain pitch against them.”