Mirabella flourished after switch at the plate
STEUBENVILLE – Jim DiCarlo called it “a no brainer.”
Micca Mirabella didn’t care.
She just wanted to get on first base for one reason.
“I love to steal bases,” she said with a smile.
But, at the time it was hard for her to do that because she wasn’t on base that often.
“I was a terrible right-handed hitter,” the Steubenville Catholic Central softball senior admitted. “I was so bad. I was so fast, so he said he would switch me to lefty and see what I could do from there.”
DiCarlo, the Crusaders’ head varsity coach, moved the seventh-grader into the left-handed hitters box and taught her how to slap and bunt.
“It was really hard at first. I was really iffy about it,” she said. “But, it was something new. We had two years to work on it before high school started. I’m still working on it now.
“You never stop trying stuff as a lefty. There is so much you can do.
“My main thing now is being a slapper. But, I’ll do whatever the defense gives me.
“But, anything that can get me on so I could steal I was ready to try. I don’t care how I get on. I just want to get on and steal.”
And, she’s pretty darn good at it, to the tune of a school-record 122 stolen bases.
For DiCarlo, the move made sense.
“She’s just so fast,” he said. “When I first got the job at Central, in the summer there was a 12-and-under tournament and Micca was playing on the Follanbsee all-star team. I saw her and thought she had good foot speed and good hand-eye coordination. When you get a lefty who can bunt and slap – and when you face a really good pitcher – if you put it in play, good things happen. In the last 15 or 20 years I’ve coached, I’ve normally have one or two kids who were slappers.
“When I got here, there were no slappers. We started from scratch. With Micca, I think she could have been a good right-handed hitter – but she had flaws and was struggling. She has great speed, is a hard worker and a good baserunner. She definitely needed help from the right side, so I didn’t think you could go wrong moving her to a slapper.
“She was cooperative and felt she would be a really good left-handed candidate. From what she has done the past four years, it looks like we made the right decision.
“Since Day 1 she’s been our leadoff kid. The nice thing about Micca is she can bunt ball two feet in front of home plate and, two pitches later, she can be on third base.
“She’s one of the best I’ve seen in picking up change-ups. I’ve had very few kids who have been able to do that.
“We convinced her that all we cared about when she got up was the umpire making the safe all at first base. We didn’t care if she got on with a slap, a bunt, a walk, an error. The saying is you can’t steal first base. We had to find a way for her to earn first base and come around and score. We needed a table setter and she is the ultimate table setter.
“She puts a lot of pressure on defenses with her speed and intelligence.
“In order to have 122 stolen bases, you have to get on base a bunch of times. She’s more than an offensive player, though. Defensively, she is so important to our team.
“Plus, she’s been a really good leader as a senior.”
Central (17-4) is slated to play at River today and in the Division IV district semifinal at 5 p.m. Monday at Tusky Central High School against the winner of today’s 5 p.m. contest between Tusky Central and Hiland.
Mirabella enters the contest with a school-record 144 hits and 127 runs.
She has a .416 average and a .483 on-base percentage.
“I’ve always known I wanted to play a sport in college. I could never decide,” she remarked. “Once I got here with coach D and batting lefty, I thought, ‘yeah, I can do this.’
“The passion of the sport is behind it all – the love for it.
“I have no idea, really, what drove me to play softball. The entire atmosphere on the softball field is so different, to me, than any other sport. I can’t explain it. It’s like two worlds.
“There’s a softball me and a school me.
“Softball is a place when I can lift everything off my shoulders and not have a care in the world. I can just play and show what I can do.”
Mirabella will finish her Crusaders career with 12 varsity letters – four each in softball and basketball, three in soccer and one in volleyball.
“Softball is a field I can step onto, forget about everything else and just play, not care about anything else in the world,” she said.
She started her career at third.
“My freshman year, our second baseman got hurt, so our shortstop had to move over and I moved over to short,” she said. “I’ve stayed there ever since. I love playing both positions. Third is my original position, so I’ll always have a love for that.
“I’m extremely surprised at the success I have had on the softball field. I never would have imagined I would have broken three school records, let alone have three school records and be able to play softball in college.”
Mirabella will continue her softball career at West Virginia State University.
“I didn’t even think about it,” she said of the college recruiting scene. “Coach D did it all for me. I was thinking of where to go and I went to a few colleges and played with them and the coaches would contact me. I was pretty chill about it. I really didn’t have anywhere I wanted to go – no set plans.
“I just knew I wanted to go far, make a name for myself and do something with my life.
“Thanks to coach D. He got hold of them and they contacted me and everything fell into place after that.
“After I went down there, played with the team and got along with the team extremely well – especially over dinner. It was just a love. They’re everything I want in a softball team. I can already tell I’m going to love them in the future.”
Mirabella and DiCarlo agreed that her time during the summer with coach Rick Sherman and the Road Runners travel team have paid big dividends.
“I have to move kids around, depending on opponents, and Micca goes someplace else in the lineup,” said Sherman. “The neat thing about Micca is you can put her anyplace in the lineup. We’ve done a lot of work on full swings. She can be a 3 hitter and is great at the bottom of the lineup.
“But, not only is it great to have that flexibility offensively, it is also great defensively. She plays third base for me. Plays shortstop for coach D. Has played second base for me and can go in the outfield.
“She gives you so much flexibility as a coach. It’s really neat having her around.”
Mirabella looks back and cannot believe her days as a Crusader are numbered with graduation not so far away.
“These four years just flew by,” she said with a huge smile. “I’m definitely going to miss it. I come here every day and watch over them – like little mother hen. It took a lot of growing up in a short amount of years for me.
“I felt bad for the seniors when I was a freshman having to put up with me – especially since I was still learning how to slap and be good at it. Thanks to them for all their patience. And, here I am.”
Ready to move on.
“My parents have been so supportive of me through my ups and downs,” Mirabella said. “I honestly cannot thank them enough – for sticking with me and not giving up on me.
“My dad especially. He’s the sports guy in the family. He always knows what to say. It’s so weird. He can read my emotions. He knows exactly what I need to hear. It motivates me no matter what.
“I play for him mainly – just for him to be proud.”