LEWISTON – Amanda Michaud was thinking about not even playing softball this summer.
Wanting a break after her freshman year in college, the former Lewiston three-sport athlete thought about bypassing summer softball.
That all changed last weekend.
Michaud and her Wilkes University softball team reached the NCAA Division III East Regional Championships before losing to Tufts Saturday.
“I would just sit there and be like, Wow, I can’t believe I’m here,'” said Michaud. “I’m just a freshman, and I’m probably going to come back every year. This is awesome.’ Whether I was playing or not, it was just great. The atmosphere, just to be there and play against these really good teams. I loved it.”
So now Michaud is scrambling to find a team and plotting out a summer of intensive training. After seeing limited action during the regular season and bearing witness to the Colonels’ playoff run, Michaud developed an insatiable taste to do it again.
“I want to get to be able to play there,” she said. “I got to be on the team. It’s a totally different ballgame than being up here, but still, I don’t want to stop at that. I don’t want to say I was on that team. I want to be able to say I played for that team. I did this for that team. That’s what I want to do.”
Michaud played soccer, hockey and softball for Lewiston. She was an infielder and pitcher early on and was the Blue Devils’ ace hurler the last two years. She chose Wilkes University, in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., because it provided her opportunity to play softball at the Division III level while also pursuing a pharmacy degree.
She discovered quickly it was going to be a significant adjustment to play at that level. She was accustomed to pitching machines with speeds of 55 miles per hour. In college, she faced speeds closer to 70.
“I got down there in the fall, and I’d never seen pitching like that in my life,” said Michaud. “In January and February, I was still struggling to get around. I was fouling off pitches mostly. I was happy with that because I knew I was improving. By March, April and May, I was hitting the ball how I wanted.”
She liked the idea of not having the responsibility early on but eventually missed it. She said she’ll work on pitching this summer but will also focus on her infield play, especially at shortstop where Michaud played 11 games and started five.
“I was really excited when I’d get my chance to play,” she said. “Every time I got in, it was awesome. I was like, Wow, I’m actually playing.’ I wasn’t sure if I’d even play at all.”
Though Wilkes had a relatively young squad, it showed promise early on. It lost to Camden-Rutgers by one in a pair of early losses. It picked up steam and won 11 straight late in the season. After winning the Freedom Conference title, the Colonels felt poised to challenge anyone in the NCAA Tournament but lost to Tufts in the opening game.
“When we lost to Tufts were were all pretty bummed – Our first game and we lost already,'” said Michaud. “Then we won and we kept winning. We were one of the last teams left. No one actually thought we would win games.”
Last Friday, Wilkes beat Pitt-Bradford and Manhattanville to advance before losing to Tufts in the loser bracket semifinal Saturday.
“I couldn’t believe that I was there even though I didn’t play at all,” said Michaud. “It was just crazy being there.”
Michaud arrived home Sunday night and is already intent on working her way back.
“I wasn’t going to play this summer, but I told my Mom, I want to be able to play. I want to have a good batting average, and I don’t want to be all nervous when he puts me in,'” she said.
“I know what I need to work on. The starting shortstop was from that area, and she was also a freshman. She was really good. He starts us all over in the fall every year. So I know what I need to do to get there.”