Abbie May appreciates her parents’ approach to her softball career.
Perry and Shannon May never forced their daughter to take pitching lessons or play travel softball, but they were there to assist her on her journey.
“Absolutely (I appreciate their approach) because I’ve seen parents who hover over their kids and it doesn’t help,” May said.
After naturally having the ability to throw strikes when first put into a pitching circle at age 7, May decided on her own to go the extra mile to pursue the sport.
But her parents were there to catch her pitches, take her to lessons and travel all over the country for tournaments from Colorado to Iowa to Ohio to Florida and places in between.
Between the many hours she put into softball and the support of her parents, May developed into the area’s most dominant pitcher.
May led the area in every pitching statistic as she compiled a 1.43 ERA, a 13-6 record and 212 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings.
She turned it up a notch in the postseason, allowing just six earned runs on 23 hits while striking out 87 batters in 49 innings to lead the Lady Bruins to a third-place finish in Class 1A.
For all she accomplished this season, May is the 2019 NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year.
“I am successful because I have been supported by both my mother and father to keep pushing and working hard to be the best I can be,” May said. “My dad spent years and years sitting on a bucket catching my pitches until he could not do it anymore. Both of my parents have taken me all over the country to the most competitive softball tournaments so I can be in the best position to be what I wanted to be
“The cool thing about my parents is they never forced softball on me. They would suggest and lend a hand to help me. It was my decision to take the sport seriously. Without the help of my parents, teammates and coaches, I would not be the pitcher I am today.”
The Lady Bruins likely would not have had their best finish in school history without May.
“Absolutely not,” St. Bede coach Rob Ruppert said when asked if St. Bede could have reached state without May. “Pitching is everything. Yes, we scored some runs and got kind of hot at regional time, but Abbie held us in games and gave us opportunities to score some runs.
“She grabbed the bull by the horns in the playoffs and really excelled.”
May’s dominance comes from a combination of good velocity, excellent movement on four pitches — including a devastating changeup — and a calm demeanor.
“She throws strikes,” Ruppert said. “She had over 200 strikeouts again this year and only 11 walks. She makes the other team swing the bat. (Her velocity) is right up there at the top of what we saw most of the year. She throws four pitches and everything moves. I don’t care if she throws a fastball, it moves. She’s really tough to hit.
“She keeps her emotions in check. I think that’s very important for a pitcher. If the other team starts to see you get frustrated, they try to rattle you more. If they see you keep your composure, it’s tough for them to rattle you.”
The even-keeled demeanor helped May in big-game situations.
“The postseason was really the most exciting for me as a pitcher because I truly do enjoy those high pressure situations,” said May, who tried to avoid putting additional pressure on herself this season by not focusing on statistics. “The super-sectional game was the game I was most nervous for because there was a lot of pressure to make it to state. The last pitch, I threw my changeup, and the swing and miss for the strikeout and a trip to state was an extremely rewarding experience.”
Not everyone May came in contact with along the way felt she was capable of pitching in big-game situations, especially in college.
She’s had travel coaches in the past tell her she wouldn’t be able to pitch at an NCAA Division I of Division II school.
“I have absolutely dealt with people and coaches who have told me that I could not or would not reach my goals because I was too short or not good enough,” said May, who will pitch at NCAA Division II Purdue-Northwest next year. “But I never let them stop me and I used their words as motivation to do it anyway.
“I truly believe that silence is the best medicine and hard work that is done when nobody is watching is what makes one great.”
With her parents behind her, she became great.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.