Source: Farmington Press
Author: Mike Moore / Sarah Purlee
FARMINGTON HILLS — Playing in a weekend tournament where the theme was to raise money for breast cancer research, Alec Lesko wanted to find a way to loosen his team up.
So, the morning of, the Farmington Hills Mercy softball coach pulled his best player aside and offered her a chance to do what so few in the sport ever get.
Play all nine positions in one day.
“I told her to have fun with it,” Lesko said of his quick conversation with senior standout Alex Sobczak. “It was a pretty fun thing. It kept us all loose. The girls really enjoyed it.”
And to nobody’s surprise, Sobczak thrived, even pitching for the first time since she was 10, and “my ERA is still at zero,” she said with a laugh.
From the circle to behind the dish to the batters box, Sobczak has been the dominant force driving Mercy’s engine all season long.
A defensive leader and a threat to hit every time she steps to the plate, the Bloomfield Hills resident has the Marlins cruising to what many hope is a long run at a state title.
And asked what makes Sobczak so great, Lesko laughed.
“I hate to use the clichés, but they are so true with this kid,” he said. “Her desire, the dedication, her work ethic, the expectations she has in herself. The competitiveness is so strong. She hates to fail. Every achievement she reaches, she instantly starts looking for the next one. That’s a quality you don’t find in too many athletes.”
Very kind words, but the numbers are there to back up Lesko’s praise.
Through 21 games this spring, Sobczak was hitting .431 with four home runs, 23 RBIs, 42 runs scored, a .922 slugging percentage, a .659 on-base percentage and just six strikeouts, despite most of those games coming in the Catholic League’s three-ball, two-strike count.
Sobczak’s power numbers are down this year, especially after hitting 17 homers as a sophomore two seasons ago, but there’s a good reason for that.
“I’ve been walked a lot,” she said simply.
Her 32 base-on-balls are, by far, the most on the team, and nearly half of those have been of the intentional variety.
“Her athleticism is off the charts,” Lesko said. “She can do just about anything on the field.”
She’s also become a more sustained leader with the team, something Lesko was also quick to point out.
“She’s a captain this season, and her leadership role has been greatly increased,” the skipper said. “Dealing with me, and the way we interact, is huge. She knows when to make a comment, or to maybe stay quiet. She knows when to get on or push a teammate, and she knows when it’s a good time to back off.”
Sobczak said she comes from an athletic and competitive family, and she’s always been one that plays with a little extra fire.
“But softball is my passion,” she said. By the way, her regular positions are catcher and third base. “Softball is something I work at every day.”
She’ll have that chance over the next few years at the University of Michigan, where she hopes to contend for a starting spot as early as next spring.
But first things first.
“We want to go out with a bang,” she said about the rest of this season. “I’d love to see this team go on a run for a state title. I know we’re capable of it.”
Lesko, who’s coached hundreds of players in his two decades of work with the game of softball, was asked where a girl like Sobczak ranks on his all-time roster.
“She’s right at the top of the list,” he quipped. “There may be a few in her class, but none better.”