By Jeremy McDonald
DAYTON, Ore.– Playing for a coach like Rob Umbenhower for three years can be a intimating experience with the stern demeanor the former Dayton High School Head Softball coach had strolling the baselines and dugout out. But kids come out confident because of his coaching.
The Pirates Sofia Cicerone knew her former coach, known as ‘Umby’, prepared her for her future as member of the North Idaho Cardinal softball team.
“I definitely think Umby prepare for the next level in many ways. He always taught me to not be so hard on myself and believe in myself. He always believed in me and that’s why he always pushed me to strive for perfection,” said Cicerone. “He taught me the importance of playing as a team and never giving up on each other. Also the repetition of drills at practice not only tremendously improved my skills but also helped me to learn the mental side to the game of softball.
“Umby always believed in me, Umby taught me that he would rather see me make a mistake going 110% than make a mistake not giving my all. At Dayton I always felt like I was being supported. Dayton truly formed me into the player I am now, all those hours of practice definitely payed off. “
The catcher is as important as the person she is catching with the Pitcher if not more. A catcher can make the pitcher better, make the team better as well as directing where they want the ball.
For Cicerone, building that relationship with the two pitchers she played with in Ani Heldt and Maddie Fluke, the Senior knows the importance of building that relationship with her Pitcher.
“I think developing a strong bond with your pitcher is very important. Maddie (Fluke) and I have a very strong bond. In a game I can always sense when Maddie is struggling, so I call time go out to the circle make a silly joke and get Maddie to take a deep breath. Another thing is being able to understand what pitches are working and then communicating to that to the coaches,” said Cicerone.
“When Maddie and I are playing in a game we are hyping each other up, which again boost our confidences and I feel is very important to have! I feel having a good bond with your pitcher, being able to read their emotions is very important to getting in and out of an inning. Maddie is like a sister to me, I will miss being her catcher.”
Coming in as a freshman, Cicerone stepped up to the challenge to prove her worth as the Pirates reached the 3A State Championship in 2018, 2019, winning the 2018 title with Cicerone behind the dish both times.
In her final game of her Junior year, Cicerone went 2-for-3 with two RBI’s in Dayton’s tough 10-5 Runner-Up finish in 2019 to Clatskaine.
It happened to be her final game in a Dayton Uniform. A few weeks into her Senior season under first-year Head Coach Dave Fluke, the season came to a halt initially with a suspension in Mid-March. Wednesday came the dagger:
For Cicerone, it hurt. Knowing that last ride never will happen with her friends and teammates one last time.
“When I found out that I will not being getting my senior season at Dayton I was completely devastated. Not being able to be on the field with my teammates and cheering each other on one last time makes me extremely sad. I felt this year was going to be one of our best runs and making it all the way back to the championship game,” said Cicerone of the situation. “Getting this season taken away from me really has made me realize what the game of softball means to me. I will always take pride in putting my Pirate Uniform on and I wish I had one last chance to do that.”
Yes, it hurts. But Cicerone knows too she’ll get one more opportunity to play. Well, at least two more at the two-year institution in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
North Idaho went 38-9-1, 27-5 in the NWAC East conference and won the NWAC Title before going 4-8 in the shorten season for the Cardinals as Cicerone achieved her goal of playing collegiate softball.
“Being able to achieve my goal of committing to a college was a very important part of my softball career. I have worked very hard for as long as I can remember, putting in the long hours at practice, staying after practice to further improve my skills,” said Cicerone. “When I went on a visit to North Idaho, I immediately knew that this is where I want to start my new chapter of both schooling and softball! I want to continue to push myself in softball, doing whatever it takes to become the best I can be.”