WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — On July 10, Joey Lye strode up to home plate to bat for Canada versus the United States in the 2014 World Cup of Softball IX in Irvine, California.
The ESPN announcers may have told you Lye played softball collegiately at Williams, but they won’t tell you how far Lye had come and how hard she worked to play for Team Canada for five years.
The ESPN announcers probably didn’t know that Lye was among the final cuts at the 2009 Team Canada tryouts and how instead of moping off to her home in Toronto, she asked the coaches what she could do to better prepare for the 2010 tryouts.
“Joey showed great initiative,” Team Canada head coach Mark Smith said. “She asked for feedback following the tryout and took to heart the information she was given. In 2010 she arrived a very determined young woman and made an opportunity for herself.”
It hurt Lye a great deal to not make Team Canada in 2009, but she now knows it helped her too. “It was a very good thing in the long run as it taught me to persevere and that hard work can go a long way,” Lye said. “The most important lesson I learned, however, was that I am not defined or limited by my failures. When you persevere through failure, you will often discover success.”
Coming so close in 2009 and working so hard on her own to prepare for 2010 by running, lifting weights, taking endless grounders at second base, and tracking fly balls in the outfield Lye was not to be denied in 2010.
The time she spent on Cole Field having Eph pitchers throwing batting practice to her from a shorter than normal distance to get acclimated to faster pitching and all those hours working out when no one was watching got her noticed in 2010.
From not knowing in 2009 if she could hang with the best players in Canada to almost landing a roster spot to securing one in 2010 was a surprise to some, but not to her softball coach at Williams, Kris Herman.
“Joey is special in a few ways,” Herman said. “Physically, as a player she is powerful. That means she has overall speed and strength. That combo, along with the fact that her Canadian ‘sports school’ high school training made her both well trained physically and having an attitude toward training that set her apart from most of her peers.”
“Joey has unorthodox mechanics on defense and is not a classic shortstop, but clearly was one of our best defensive players during her time here,” Herman added. “Offensively her versatility at the plate, and her better-than-the-rest instincts on the bases made her great. Clearly her senior year batting title speaks to that.”
Lye led Division III in batting in her final season at Williams, hitting .563.
Lye’s fifth season on Team Canada will also mark her second as team captain and third as starting shortstop, but she can play any infield or outfield position and at the dish she is a threat to bunt, slap hit, or hit away with power, all of which now makes her invaluable for Team Canada.
In baseball a player can hit for the cycle by getting a single, double, triple and home run in one game, but at Williams for Kris Herman there is a “Joey Lye Cycle,” which features a bunt hit, a slap hit, a home run and a stolen base in one game.
“Our former shortstop was Jennifer Salling, who starred at the University of Washington and won the NCAA World Series in 2010, so we had a very good shortstop, and Joey played mostly outfield to that point,” Smith said. “But when Jen left to play in the pro league we needed a shortstop so we gave Joey a chance there and she has worked very hard to develop into a very solid defensive player at that position.”
Lye boasts a career batting average of .364 in international play for Team Canada.
“As a coaching staff we felt that we needed more leadership than any one or two individuals to lead,” Smith said. “Joey is part of a four-person captains group and together they all bring different strengths. Joey leads by example and brings a strong work ethic. She works hard and her teammates know that she comes to play every day.”
That Lye would develop into a team captain for the Canadian National Team is no surprise to Kris Herman. “She is a coach, she understands what teams need to have, and not have in order to be successful in all of the little ways,” Herman said. “She will hold people to a high standard and hold herself to the same. She is not afraid to have frank discussions with team members and yet is good at teaching the youngest teammate.”
Asked what she learned most from playing for Kris Herman, Lye said, “When you are the person having the most fun at practice you are usually the one getting the most out of it. If you work to get 1percent better every day, that adds up to significant improvement over a season.”
A four-year starter for the Ephs in softball and ice hockey, Lye started off as an outfielder for the Ephs and finished her career at shortstop.
In ice hockey, she played in 100 games as a defenseman and assisted on 23 goals, while netting 18 — including three game-winners.
Lye was recruited to come to Williams by the Ephs’ women’s ice hockey head coach Neil Sinclair, who is now the head coach of men’s ice hockey at Skidmore. “Neil was on to Joey as a hockey recruit before I knew of her and I probably would not have heard of her,” Herman said. “I did not see her play before she arrived.”
Lye set five career softball records at Williams and finished among the top 10 in 11 different offensive categories. She was named the ECAC 2009 Division III New England Player of the Year, named to the NFCA’s New England Region First Team, selected as the 2009 NESCAC Player of the Year and was a New England Softball Coaches Association First Team selection.
Additionally, Lye was accorded Second Team All-America honors at shortstop in 2008.
Her 2009 batting average of .563 not only led Division III, it is a Williams single-season record. In 2009, Lye led the Ephs in runs scored (43), hits (63), total bases (73), walks (13), on-base percentage (.608), and assists (74) as well as batting average and stolen bases (22).
Lye finished her Eph career as the all-time leader in batting average (.457), runs scored (150), hits (211), total bases (267) and stolen bases (62). She accomplished all of that in 148 games played, third best all time.
Last year the Team Canada went 18-12, finishing fourth at the U.S. World Cup and the Canadian Open, and won a silver medal at the Pan American/World Championship. Qualifier.
After graduating from Williams in 2009 Lye stayed on in the Purple Valley serving as an assistant coach in both softball and women’s ice hockey. The following year she continued as an assistant in softball, but served as the Ephs’ interim head women’s ice hockey coach.
Currently Lye is the head coach of softball and an assistant women’s ice hockey coach at Stevenson in Owings Mills, Maryland. Last spring Lye’s Stevenson Mustangs’ posted a school-record 24 wins.