Maggie Roberts never hit a home run in her four years playing high school softball. Since coming to Polk State, however, she has slammed 20 home runs over two seasons. Next year, she'll move to Florida Southern College on a softball scholarship.
As a freshman third baseman last season, Roberts slugged 10 home runs, which led the team. She also hit a team-leading.479 with 54 RBI, and set a team record with 23 doubles.
This season, while moving to first base, the sophomore has continued bashing the ball. In the team's first 35 games, Roberts leads the NJCAA with 55 RBI and 110 total bases. She also ranks among NJCAA leaders with 11 HRs (4th) 15 doubles (2nd), 58 hits (2nd), a .957 slugging percentage (7th), and a.504 batting average (20th).
Why the sudden power outburst? Roberts credits hard work and good coaching.
"I definitely practice more here than I did in high school," says the Lakeland native, who graduated from Lake Gibson High School and enjoys playing close to home in front of family and friends at Polk State.
"And the coaches, especially head coach Jeff Ellis and coach Curtis Threlkeld, are really good and have helped me a lot," she says.
Roberts seems as surprised as anyone at her newfound power.
"I never try to hit home runs," she says. "I just try to hit the ball as hard as I can."
"Maggie is the best hitter I have ever had here at Polk State," says Ellis. "When former Eagle and First Team All American Kenshyra Jackson graduated, I thought it would be a long time if ever that I would have another hitter that good. But just two years later Maggie came along and has surpassed what Kenshyra had accomplished, and I really believe the best is yet to come."
Roberts faces tougher competition in the Suncoast Conference than she did in high school, which motivates her to improve.
"When you play with and against better players, you want to do better," she says. "It's easier to do better when you have good people to back you up, both coaches and teammates."
"Here at Polk State, everyone on the team is good. I know if I don't hit, the person batting behind me will, so that helps take some of the pressure off. I trust my teammates a lot. I know softball is a team sport, but if I try to do my best, it helps the team. And I get lots of encouragement from my teammates and coaches."
Her breakout freshman season earned her NJCAA Second Team All America and NFCA Second-Team All-America honors. Other accolades included Polk State College Female Athlete of the Year, All State First Team member, FCSAA All Tournament team, Gulf District First Team member, Suncoast Conference First Team member, National Fastpitch Coaches Association All South Region First Team member, and Silver Slugger winner.
"It always feels good to get noticed for hard work, but I try not to think about it," she says. "At the start of this season I think I tried to outdo what I did last year. I tried too hard and it didn't work. So I reminded myself that this is a new year so I should just relax and see what happens."