strikeout machine: emily kirby on route to third asun title

Liberty softball senior Emily Kirby has her pitching routine down to a science.

“I get the ball back from (Caroline) Hudson, and I walk back to the back of the mound, and I’m usually looking to the mound,” Kirby explained. “That’s my debrief moment — alright, that pitch is done with, moving onto the next.”

She takes a breath, then turns around with her eyes focused on the ground.

 “I take another deep breath, lick my fingers, wipe it, and then step up to the mound, eyes still down. Once I’m here, I look up and I get the sign … I’ll look back down and then I’ll go from there,” Kirby said.

This method has proven tried and true for the left-hander, who has emerged as the best pitcher in the ASUN. She was named the ASUN Conference Pitcher of Year in 2021, and with four games with at least 10 strikeouts, she looks poised to receive that honor again.

From her arrival to Lynchburg to now, Kirby wasn’t always the star she is today. Loaded with potential but lacking experience on the big stage, she played in just seven total games as a freshman.

“It was way different. In high school, I was the top dog. Then coming here, it’s like you’re nobody,” Kirby said. “You just have to put in the work.”

Pitching Coach Paige Cassady and a trio of upperclassmen pitchers took her under their wings.

“They were there, supported me, and I think that support and love that I received helped me to say, ‘It’s okay, I’m not there yet, but I’m going to get there,’” Kirby said.

Kirby gives credit to Coach “Cass.”

“She never gave up on me and even though I wasn’t pitching and starting and getting playing time, she still worked with me,” Kirby said.

Kirby has since come into her own and pitched her way to conference titles in 2018 and 2021. On both occasions, she also had the opportunity to pitch in the NCAA Regional tournament.

The most memorable game of her career, however, came during an exhibition game against Team USA Feb. 12, 2020. While the Flames lost 0-18, Kirby was the starting pitcher against a team that included two of the country’s best left-handed pitchers:  Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman.

“I just remember watching them while I was growing up and just being in awe of them and then being there on the same stage and playing against them was just insane to me,” Kirby said. 

After the game, she got the biggest compliment of her life.

“At the end of the game, shaking hands through the line Monica Abbott pats me on the back and says, ‘Great pitching.’ That stood out the most to me,” Kirby said.

With her senior season coming to a close, Kirby plans to stick around Liberty as the team’s manager while pursuing her master’s degree in sports management. Her undergraduate degree was in physical education and health.

While there may be opportunities to play softball overseas in the future, her long-term goal is to coach.

“I would like to teach, but I would really love to coach at a high level,” Kirby said. 

Though she will take on a more administrative role, she welcomes the opportunity to stay involved with the team and the sport she loves.

“Just being here and the level that I’m at and Division I playing these big teams, Liberty’s out there on another level … because of the love and care that coaches have for us. It’s just a family,” Kirby said. 

Kirby has an outstanding 0.84 against ASUN competition in 2022, one of the contributing factors to the team’s perfect 18-0 record in conference play. 

Kirby will look to make one last postseason run with the Lady Flames, who won the ASUN and reached the NCAA regionals two of the past three seasons. 

Cosentino is a sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *