CHARLESTON — Wahama High School’s Mikie Lieving wasn’t always good at her craft.
A lot of hard work and dedication throughout the years helped develop her skills, which has led the now ex-White Falcon and Ohio University signee to be selected as the softball player of the year by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Very grateful, but I was shocked,” Lieving admitted when she was told earlier this week she’d won the award by first-year WHS head coach Wes Riffle. “Ever since we were little, this group of girls, we knew we would be pretty good in high school. Especially because I think we all played travel ball. My freshman year we couldn’t play with (All-American and two-time Mountain East Conference POY) Hannah Rose.
“She now plays at Charleston and it was heartbreaking. After winning the first one (Class A state title in 2021), I don’t want to say we expected ourselves to win the next two. We expected it in a way that we would work hard and we wanted to do it again. It’s so cool and I’m just so thankful to have been a part of this.”
Lieving gives a lot of credit for her success to her teammates and that obviously includes catcher Amber Wolfe, who is off to Radford University and like Lieving was a three-time honoree on the all-state first team.
“I mean I wouldn’t be up there without these girls,” admitted Lieving, who went 21-4 with a 0.68 earned run average and 259 strikeouts in 155 innings this spring while batting .596 with 10 doubles, four triples, a state record 23 home runs to go along with 62 runs-batted-in and a dozen stolen bases. “They push me and they make me better. I’m just thankful that I get to represent the state and just the sport of softball.”
Success, though, was far from immediate.
When asked if she’d always been good Lieving replied “not at first. We were both put in right field and we both batted like eight and nine because we couldn’t hit.
“I do remember those days, but because of those days, I think, that’s why we are here now. I would say around 14U, 12U, I was kind of like I might do this in college, maybe.”
Coach Riffle compared Lieving to a gym rat in basketball.
“She lives, eats and breathes this game,” he said. “She does all the proper strength and conditioning, which I think she’s a natural talent, but I think her strength and conditioning has really helped her, and being with a travel program. She went to Tim Fouts for pitching instruction.
“She’s worked with a lot of the top-tier talent in the state. The thing is with Mikie, though, everyone sees the success she has on the field, at the plate and on the mound. What doesn’t get seen is the amount of work that she does off the field. She’s dedicated her life to the game.”
Wolfe, who has played alongside Lieving since the age of 8, understands how special it was to be part of the run for three straight Class A state titles.
“We’ve had incredible careers and to have it with her, she’s my best friend, I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” Wolfe said. “Just this team. This group of girls the past three years, all the girls that have been a part of Wahama softball, it’s just really special.”
Coach Riffle also admitted a big key for Lieving was “getting the right people to kind of get her on the right path. Her mom and dad have sent her all over the country for travel ball.
“She’s played and seen the best of the best. The amount of work she puts into it. This is a girl that pitches in her basement, too. She’s a workhorse man. It’s unbelievable.”
Previously, Lieving has played travel ball with the Birmingham Thunderbolts but is spending her final summer competing for Team North Carolina Hinde.
She said Fouts taught her how to pitch at the age of 9 and she still seeks out his advice to this day.
“Definitely was a very important figure in my life,” admitted Lieving, who replied the following when asked if she could rank the trio of state crowns “the first one was definitely just special for a lot of reasons. Starting with the fact we were undefeated (27-0). It was the first time a girls team had won a state championship at our high school.
“The second time was really special, too, because we kind of knew deep down it was going to be coach Chris (Noble’s) last game. It was special in its own way. The last one was bittersweet, but I’m glad we went out with a win. Us seniors were talking about that. We’d better go out with a win. We’d been through too much. They are very special for different reasons.”
By JAY W. BENNETT/The Parkersburg News & Sentinel