The fans may not see it, but opposing softball coaches see a big flashing caution light as James Wood’s Ivy Rosenberry strides to the plate.
It makes them willing to take a chance on anybody else with a bat.
With the district title on the line near the end of the regular season, Fauquier (even with outstanding pitcher Meghan Herrington) walked Rosenberry in all four of her plate appearances. In the district playoff semifinals, Liberty did the same thing against the Colonels’ pitcher.
“That’s crazy,” James Wood coach Todd Baker said. “Teams are going in here — good teams — and they are saying Ivy Rosenberry is not going to beat us, not offensively anyway. She finds other ways of beating teams with her arm.”
That dual talent at the plate and in the circle is why Rosenberry is The Winchester Star’s Softball Player of the Year for the first time in her career. Rosenberry becomes the fourth different James Wood player over the past four years to win the honor.
The junior right-hander piled up plenty of accolades this spring, including Class 4 Northwestern District Player of the Year and Region 4C Player of the Year and a First Team All-State selection, even though the Colonels were eliminated in the regional semifinals.
Like the intentional walks and the awards indicate, Rosenberry has earned respect and fear from the opposition — with good reason.
At the plate, she hit a whopping .500 with a 1.052 slugging percentage. She led the Colonels with seven homers, 11 doubles, and 26 RBIs.
Those numbers included 26 walks, nearly twice as many as any other player on the team. Throw in the walks and when she reached on an error, Rosenberry was on base nearly two-thirds of the time.
“This year was a little frustrating by getting walked so many times,” Rosenberry admitted. “It was definitely a sign of respect. That’s how I had to take it. Getting frustrated and going with the few chances that I did get, I didn’t want to get too anxious. In years past, I’d get anxious to hit and it usually doesn’t turn out the way I want it to. I just stayed patient and waited for them to make a mistake.”
What makes her so dangerous? She’s not often going to get cheated during an at-bat.
“I cover the plate pretty well,” Rosenberry said. “There’s not too many times I’m going to strike out. … Whenever I do hit, I just try to swing hard — swing hard and go for it. There’s no reason to go 50 percent. You might as well go for 100 percent and hope for the best hit you can get.”
When she connects, it has a chance to fly over the fence or into a gap.
“It’s the power that she possesses,” Baker said. “She’s the one player that can shut a team down in the circle but can come up and hit two bombs to win a game. She can single-handedly win it at times. There’s few players around like that and that makes her one of the most dangerous players in the district.”
In the circle, she brings five pitches — fastball, curve, change-up, drop and rise. Rosenberry says her fastball now hits 65-66 mph on the radar gun. Those pitches, along with a solid defense, helped Rosenberry go 16-6 with a minuscule 0.75 ERA. She struck out a whopping 200 batters in 130.2 innings.
“My thought whenever I went into games was just to dominate,” Rosenberry said. “Don’t let people score. Try to keep people off the bases. I was really fortunate with a really good defense behind me that if people did get a hold of the ball they would field it well and get it in on time.”
The big concern coming into the season would be how Rosenberry handled the pitching chores.
Over the previous seasons, the Colonels had split the innings among at least two pitchers. Last season, Rosenberry served mainly as a closer after Lani Spielman (now at Shepherd University) started games.
Based on Rosenberry’s efforts as a sophomore, Baker knew she could be dominant on the mound.
“That was a concern early with the conditioning because you don’t really know,” Baker said. “She plays a lot of travel and she pitches in travel, but they’re typically timed games. A lot of times they are four- and five-inning games. But to come into a full high school season and be the No. 1 starter and pitch darn near every inning, I’m sure she would tell you that it was a concern. ‘How will I hold up?’”
“This year I just wanted to get my body more physically ready,” said Rosenberry, who threw all but seven innings for the Colonels. “I think in years past, I didn’t condition quite enough. We really conditioned well in the hallways. I really progressed more throwing at practice. On days off, it was days off. It was no throwing.”
Because pitching takes its toll, especially mentally, many hurlers see their batting averages plummet. Rosenberry says she is determined to not let what happens in the circle affect her at the plate.
“The half an inning before, you have to flush it out,” she said. “It’s over with. There’s nothing you can do about it to change it. Now you can go and try to make up for it at the plate. You can get that base hit and bring your team back in it if you’ve let that run or two come across the plate. … You have to be mentally strong for this game.”
The Colonels got off to a good start, winning their first seven, but then came three straight losses and defeats in four of five games (two in the district).
Rosenberry felt the Colonels got too “comfortable” and given the program’s success that isn’t an option.
“You can never get comfortable in softball,” she said. “There’s always someone coming back to beat you.”
The Colonels responded by winning seven straight. They knocked off Fauquier (4-1) and rival Sherando (8-2) in the final stretch to win the district regular-season title.
“It was really cool to see how the team progressed in the season,” Rosenberry said. “It kind of lit a fire under us.”
Rosenberry said she enjoyed the heat of the district chase where every pitch and swing had consequences.
“You have to live for the pressure in these kinds of environments,” she said. “You can’t really be scared of it. For what I want to do in my future, you can’t be scared by pressure of any means. You have to know and have the comfort that you have a defense behind you. I was never uncomfortable with anybody that was out in the field.”
The future she talks about is playing Division I softball. She has orally committed to play at Virginia Tech, which went 47-11 this past season including 20-4 in the ACC. The Hokies advanced to the NCAA Tournament, going 2-2.
Rosenberry initially had planned to go to Lehigh, but yearned to attend a bigger school. Her travel team coach from Hagerstown had a connection with coach Pete D’Amour, who had been hired to turn around a program that went 23-30 in 2018.
“I went for a couple of camps and my first weekend he really liked me,” Rosenberry said of D’Amour. “It was just three hours of straight pitching. It was a long day but it was so much fun. Their pitching coach there [Doug Gillis] is just one of a kind. He’s so special.”
That camp led to another.
“I got invited down the next weekend to see me throw live against batters to see how I did,” Rosenberry said. “I pitched one of the best times I ever have on the field. I struck out nine batters out of 12 girls. It was just ridiculous. My balls were moving. Everything was going so great.”
Things went even better than she expected.
“I walked back into the facility and Coach Pete calls me over,” Rosenberry said. “I was like, ‘Oh, gosh. Maybe he’s just sending me to a different station because you’re starting hitting and whatnot. He was like, ‘So, is this someplace you’d like to come?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ He told me my scholarship amount and whatnot. I said yes and I did not even talk to my parents about it. … I knew it was for me. I knew deep down that we could make it work. It’s more than what I could ever ask for.”
Saying yes to D’Amour was a lot easier than telling her parents. Kim and Rich Rosenberry were engaged in a conversation with another Virginia Tech coach when Ivy approached with the news.
Ivy said when she tried to interrupt the conversation, Kim waved her away.
“She kind of like shushed me off,” Ivy says with a chuckle. “Actually the assistant coach, Coach [Kirin] Kumar came over and said, ‘So, did it happen?’ I said, ‘I haven’t even told mom and dad, yet. She shushed me away.’ So [Kumar] marches me over there and we get to tell them. Tears started to roll. It was something that is so special.”
Rosenberry has both modest and high goals set for her career in Blacksburg.
“Whenever I get there, I’d like to pitch a freshman game and win,” she said. “That’s a huge goal — to be a freshman pitcher and win a game. Also, I want to go to the College World Series one day. I’ve always wanted to go. When you see the girls on TV, that’s everybody’s dream.”
With committing to a Division I school, Rosenberry admits there is a certain amount of pressure to perform at the highest level.
Everybody wants to get a hit or strike out the future Division I player.
Rosenberry admits there is a standard to live up to, but she will not let it get to her when she doesn’t measure up.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” she said. “The girls in the College World Series make mistakes. That’s how it is. Softball is a game of failure.”
But she’s doing quite well at James Wood. After her freshman season at Millbrook, the Rosenberrys moved to the James Wood school district. Ivy admits she felt a little out of place at first, but grew comfortable around her new teammates. She now feels right at home.
Baker is sure glad to have her.
“She’s meant a lot to the program,” he said. “Not only is she an outstanding player, which everyone knows, she’s a great team player and a role model for the young freshmen and sophomores. She’s a true leader on and off the field. A lot of people call themselves leaders, but they’re not. She’s truly is and does a good job of pushing everybody at practice.
“Almost at times, she’s like having an extra coach on the team to be honest with you. She wants to talk about how she wants to pitch certain teams and we kind of come up with a game plan around Ivy and it’s worked out pretty good for us.”
And pretty rough for the opponents.
Baker says the danger is real with Rosenberry.
“She’s a big game player.”