POWHATAN – Ali Celiberti’s commitment to softball, which has spanned most of her life, is a commitment she loves making. She’s played since she was 5, and over the years she’s learned more about herself through the game on the diamond.
She’s also experienced tremendous success, like when she and her Powhatan High School softball team played in states in both 2016 and 2017…
…and, most recently, when she and her Randolph-Macon Softball team made it to the program’s first-ever NCAA National Championship Series and won their first-ever Super Regional Championship over Christopher Newport, 2 games to 1.
“It was just really exciting,” Celiberti said. “It was just cool to make history for the school and…to be a Yellow Jacket.”
She recalled how, at the beginning of the season, she and her team talked about how they’d have a strong offensive game but not a very strong defensive game, or vice versa.
“We joked that we just had to put it together because everyone knows the beginning of our season wasn’t exactly the greatest,” she said, pointing to a first half of the season that saw the Yellow Jackets sitting at 14-9 overall and 4-6 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference prior to April 1. But after that, she said it was a matter of “taking those losses and really putting together the defensive and offensive positioning and just working towards our big goal, which we ended up meeting.”
This past season was Celiberti’s first with the Division III Yellow Jackets. She transferred from the Queens University of Charlotte, where she played softball for the Royals as a freshman, to Randolph-Macon this past fall. While the four-and-a-half hour driving distance between her home and her previous school didn’t really bother her, she praised the quality of Macon’s Biology program, which complements her pre-med focus.
“The school itself drew me in – the campus is beautiful and it’s just so close to home,” Celiberti said of Randolph-Macon. “And really when I visited, I really liked the coaches, and the girls were super nice and very welcoming.”
She sees the Yellow Jackets softball team as more of a family for her. The players are the same on the field as they are off the field – they’re the first ones to help you with something, whether it’s game-related or classroom-related.
“At Macon, I have the team behind me,” she said. “If you make an error, they’re like, ‘Next play! Next play!’ And I think that was really important…they always have your back and I feel like, if I ever have problems, I can really go to them if it’s softball or non-softball related.”
At her last school, which is Division II, Celiberti, because she was a pitcher, didn’t hit. But hitting has always been a strong suit for her. When she was being recruited again, she asked R-MC’s head coach Kevin Proffitt if pitchers got to hit on his team. She recalled him saying: “If you’re a pitcher and you can hit, then you’re going to hit.”
She definitely did.
Celiberti as a sophomore batted .361 in 37 of the team’s 47 games in 2019. She homered three times – including once during the Super Regional series against Christopher Newport – and crushed 9 doubles total. She batted in 15 runs and scored 9. Although R-MC’s season ultimately ended at the hands of no. 7 Illinois Wesleyan, Celiberti in that game hit 3-for-4 with an RBI and a double.
“Hitting this year, I feel like I really executed,” she said, “and helped my team out in more ways than not.”
On the pitching side, Celiberti was playing behind Randolph-Macon Softball phenom Candace Whittemore, but she still picked up work throughout the season, making 14 appearances in the circle and earning 2 wins while also getting a save in a Feb. 28, 7-4 win at Mary Washington.
Although this was Whittemore’s final year, Celiberti is looking forward to seeing how the team will adapt without her next year; she feels that she’ll be able to really lock down in the circle and hopefully do as well as she did in the conference tournament against Lynchburg, when she notched the win in a 3-1 team effort and held the opponents to one earned run over 7 innings pitched.
The biggest inspirations to Celiberti throughout her journey have been her parents and family, whom she said understood why she wasn’t happy at one place and why Macon was the fit for her, and her longtime pitching coach Kerri Cobb, who helped her during her transfer.
Doing well on those big stages – the conference tournament, the Super Regional series and the NCAA tournament – has boosted Celiberti’s confidence going into this coming year. In the circle, she’s looking to lower her ERA, which was 3.41 last season. At the plate, the rising junior is looking to increase her on-base percentage (.370) and focus in on pitch selection.
All of those aspects are part of her lifelong commitment to always being better than the year before.