By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline's Sabrie Neeb put up astonishing numbers this season. There were the nine home runs. And the 30 RBIs. And the .438 batting average. And even the area-best 14 steals.
These numbers should worry teams playing St. Francis University (Pa.) -- where Neeb will play next year -- over the next four seasons because as good as Neeb's numbers were this year, she wasn't even 100 percent healthy.
Neeb, the Northern Virginia Daily's 2012 Softball Player of the Year, tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her left knee last year during basketball season and missed all of last softball season. The original surgery didn't go as well as hoped, and the bone did not grow around the screws causing her pain throughout the season.
"I wish it would never [have] happened because I feel like I still could have done better," Neeb said. "But it did happen and it was rough, but I'm really happy that my family was supportive. Because it wasn't the easiest thing. It was almost like I had to start all over."
Neeb came back with her travel team, the Vienna Shamrocks, last September. Once Skyline's season started, Neeb said she struggled adjusting to the slower pitching. She worked hard with her dad and assistant coach John Ritter to make the adjustment.
Then on March 26, Neeb hit her first homer against Sherando, and didn't look back. She would go onto hit eight more over the next 17 games.
"I kind of got on a roll and kept hitting them from there," Neeb said. "It was great. The most important part is you don't hit them for yourself, it's like [for] people there watching you. You get to impress them and you get to lead your team, too. A couple of the home runs I had really got us out of a slump, sometimes."
There were two homers that stood out for Neeb. The first was the one that came against Sherando, as Neeb and teammates Taylor Henry and Sarah Beamer hit back-to-back-to-back dingers in that game.
The other memorable home run came against Warren County on April 26 on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
"That really meant a lot to me because my grandmother died of breast cancer and there was a lot of people there watching," Neeb said.
Neeb played throughout the season in pain because of the injury, but said she gets a lot of motivation through her family.
"I kind of wanted to do it for my grandpa, because he's had a rough time losing my grandma," Neeb said. "And my family really looks forward to watching me play, and some of them are dying from cancer. For them to be able to come watch me as sick as they are, it just gave me the energy and motivation to want to do good.
"Because they're dying and all I want to do is be a good softball player."
Neeb not only was strong at the plate, but also on the field. She was solid at third base, and also was a force getting steals once she reached base offensively.
Neeb said she has to work out every day, but she doesn't feel as physically strong as she was two years ago.
There were times during the season when Neeb said it was tough to stay positive on her comeback.
"It still hits me hard that I had to go through all that last year," Neeb said. "And sometimes I still get really frustrated about having to sit out a year."
The Hawks had a great season, winning the Northwestern District regular season and tournament titles. They finished with a 16-7 record, but lost in the Region II quarterfinals to defending champion Briar Woods.
The game was suspended after two innings the first day in a scoreless tie. Neeb said she felt like the team should have won that game.
"The second day we just came out flat," Neeb said. "You couldn't get anyone motivated or anything. I definitely think if we were the same team we were the day before, we could have beat them."
Skyline's program is going strong, but will be losing a lot of seniors, including Neeb and Henry. Neeb said she likes to help out with some of the youths in Front Royal, and she hopes Skyline's program will continue getting even better.
"I like working with the girls because they look up to me," Neeb said. "So I want them to be better than I was, and to keep the program going. I don't want it to stop here just because Taylor and I are graduating."
Neeb said she will soon have the screws taken out of her knee, and will have to take six weeks off.
Then she will be able to head to St. Francis to play, and hopefully finally be 100 percent again.
"I just want it be back to normal and to be back to myself and to not have to play with pain or anything," Neeb said. "And I didn't get to play all of last year, so think of who I will be next year when I get that extra year of practice in, and after lifting and everything. I'll be in better shape."