Michaela Luyber has to keep busy, if only to avoid what she thinks might turn into a trip to the Twilight Zone.
“I don’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t always have something to do,” Luyber said. “Maybe it would be weird.”
At the rate she is going, Luyber won’t be finding out any time soon.
The Bordentown Regional High School junior was recently elected student council vice-president for her senior year. She is a yearbook volunteer responsible for putting the pages together, thus getting the chance to load it up with Michaela Luyber photos.
“Yeah,” she said with a laugh. “Don’t give away my secret.”
Luyber is also a member of the Homecoming committee, and even that’s not enough.
“I’m always looking to help out after school,” she said. “Pretty much everything there is to volunteer for, I try to do. I also have work out of school. Every day I have something to do.”
In the middle of it all, and what helps anchor everything else, is softball.
Luyber is in her third year as a starter for the Scotties, who carried a 12-9 record into their May 23 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II tournament game with Spotswood.
“With travel ball and in school, I’m pretty much playing softball all year round,” she said. “It’s always a go-to thing. If I’m having a rough day I can always go play softball. And I know this sounds corny but it takes your mind off things.”
That’s actually the right attitude to have for Luyber, who plays third base. In softball that is a position where you aren’t thinking as much as reacting most of the time.
“It’s very scary, it takes a special kind of kid to want to play third base,” Scotties coach Hillary Tucker said. “When kids make contact and it turns that way, the ball gets there really hard and nothing gets through her. I feel when kids pull the ball down to third base it usually keeps going. But she always lays out and plays the position really well. She has such range side to side, she reads the ball well and makes a lot of diving catches. She even plays a couple steps in and nothing gets by her.”
That’s part of the fear factor of third base in softball. They have to play in because the bunting game is so prevalent. If the batter swings away, however, a line drive at the head could be a possibility. Like any good third sacker, Luyber is willing to chance it.
“I guess it is just instinct but when I’m on the field I love to have fun and diving for me is so much fun,” she said. “I’m not timid at all when I’m at third base. Every ball I see I want that ball. It’s just fun for me to go get the ball no matter where it’s at. I always make sure I’m ready. Each batter that comes up, inside my mind I say ‘OK, the ball’s coming to you.’”
Luyber has had that attitude from the start. She began her career playing T-ball; then took a break from the diamond. But while attending her brother’s little league games, she developed an urge to always want to run on the field, which led her to trying softball.
She began with the Bordentown 8U Bandits, who put her on third base to get it all started.
“I never really thought anything of it,” Luyber said. “I just went to third base and that’s all I ever knew. I think I volunteered. I also volunteered to catch for a while and did that for a few years, but that turned into something I really did not like. Maybe it was the gear. I was young and didn’t want to have to hold all that stuff.”
Upon making the Bordentown varsity as a freshman, Luyber thought she hit a roadblock when third base was already taken.
Not a problem.
“She’s very versatile,” Tucker said. “We needed her at second base and she stepped up and played well there. It’s nice to be able to move her to different spots, it gives us some flexibility. She gets the majority of balls hit to her. Playing third she gets on bunts quickly because she plays so far up, and she makes a good throw on the run all the time.”
‘She’s a spark in the lineup and just a real energy for our team. She’s always talking, keeping the energy up and keeping the girls motivated.’
Luyber found second base to be a bit disconcerting initially, due to the different movements and responsibility of the position, but she learned to enjoy it as the year went on. Michaela also had a strong debut at the plate, batting .393 with 22 hits, 10 RBI and 12 runs scored.
Last year saw her slump to .254, but she increased her RBI (13) and run (18) totals and also hit for more power with eight doubles.
This season, Luyber was at .293 after going 2-for-3 with three runs scored in Bordentown’s CJ II first-round victory over Spotswood. She had a home run, two doubles and just four RBI, but that’s because she is batting leadoff. In the all-important category for a leadoff hitter, she had scored 21 runs.
“At the plate, she always has a plan,” Tucker said. “You usually think about the number one batter as a slapper, but Michaela just hits away. She really does a nice job. In the past we’ve had slappers at leadoff but because she’s always on base, we put her there. She hits the ball really well, has a lot of good at-bats and hits a lot of line drives.”
Luyber started off hot this year and then tailed off a bit, but began to heat up when the calendar flipped. In her first nine games in May, she hit .333 with a homer, double and six runs scored.
“I was actually very surprised to be batting leadoff this year but my coaches kind of told me they had confidence in me,” Luyber said. “They believe that every time I get up I’m going to be able to start the team by getting on base and I’ll get moved over by the next batter. I got into a little bit of a slump, but my teammates brought me out of it. We all do great at really picking each other up.”
As a team leader, Luyber is one of the big contributors in that category.
“She’s a spark in the lineup and just a real energy for our team,” Tucker said. “She’s always talking, keeping the energy up and keeping the girls motivated. She works not only on her own skills, but helps out the other girls as well.”
Luyber, who also played basketball for Bordentown, has one more year to hone her skills before heading to Stockton University for softball and to major in marine biology.
“I’ve always been an animal lover,” she said. “When I was growing up I was always set on being a vet because my grandfather was a vet. But once I grew up and knew you had to put animals down and do shots, I just couldn’t do that.
“I’ve always been interested in the ocean thing and I think it’s interesting. I do not know half the things that are living in the ocean. So that’s just something I’ve wanted to look into. Now if I’m in the ocean and feel something, (I’ll say) ‘Lemme catch it.’ The only thing I’m scared of is crabs. That might be a problem.”
Unless she’s playing third base and they hit a crab at her. Then she’ll do everything she can to catch it.