Roberts rocketing to glory at UNA
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Sabrina Roberts left her mark on the Hartselle softball program. She holds the school record for career wins with 61. She won 16 games as a senior with a 0.97 ERA. She set the school standard for strikeouts in a season when she struck out 143 batters in 2004.
Now as a freshman pitcher at the University of North Alabama she's once again making a strong impression.
Roberts has a 7-2 record midway through the current season. The seven wins are tied for the staff lead, as the Lady Lions are off to an unexpected 17-6 start. Roberts paces the staff with 50 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA. The early success has taken Roberts by surprise.
"I was told I would play some as a freshman, but I didn't know what to expect," Roberts said. "I didn't realize I was tied for the lead in wins."
Roberts choose UNA after visiting the school campus and clicking with players and coaches alike.
"UNA was the first school to offer me a scholarship," Roberts said. "After I visited, I knew it was the place I needed to be."
Roberts feels the main difference between the high school and college games are the ability of the hitters a pitcher faces.
"In high school a team has maybe one or two good hitters," Roberts said. "In college every hitter in the lineup is a solid hitter."
Roberts, who was the MVP of the state softball tournament in 2003 when she led the Lady Tigers to the state title, isn't setting personal goals, but rather is focused on team goals. A trait she picked up from Hartselle High coach Shane Alexander.
"I just want our team to win every game," Roberts said. "Coach Alexander was like that. He wanted the best out of his players and he wanted to win each and every game."
Roberts, who considers her changeup or screwball her best pitch, helped her Lady Lion teammates whip their arch-rivals from the University of Alabama-Huntsville. UNA's record against their instate rivals was only 6-30 when the two schools met on March 15.
Roberts admitted to being nervous as she took the mound in the contest. She allowed two hits in the opening inning, but didn't allow a run.
"I was a little wild with throws the first inning, because of nerves," Roberts said. "My coach told me between innings to just calm down and get ahead of the hitters."
Roberts would get ahead of the hitters the rest of the contest as she threw a five-hit shutout. She walked only one and struck out three as the Lady Lions went on to won 9-0.
"UAH has a great tradition and I think it made a statement about us to beat them," Roberts said.
"It felt like a state tournament in intensity. I didn't expect to do that well, but we hit the ball and our team played up to our abilities."
Roberts credits playing summer ball with honing her pitching skills and helping her reach the college level.
She began playing travel softball at age eight and continued on through last summer, just after her high school career ended.
Roberts, who relies on the movement of her pitchers to get batters out, gets most of her strikeouts on her changeup.
"I usually throw my changeup or screwball with two strikes," Roberts said. "I have to mix up pitches to be effective, because I'm not a power pitcher."
Roberts, who is on a five-game winning streak on the mound, said the key to her success at the college level is due in part to getting ahead of the batters she faces.
"I'm doing a better job of not falling behind a batter 2-0 or 3-0," Roberts said. "Early in the season I was struggling with that and I wasn't very effective."
Roberts, who is majoring in physiology, still wears her state championship rings she earned with the Lady Tigers in 2002-03. Roberts considers the two state titles she was part of while at Hartselle are the highlight of her athletic career.
"I loved playing for the team everyone wanted to beat," Roberts said. "The two state titles were so big.
"I can't pick one of them over the other. They're both so special to me."