(Editor’s Note: Two Jasper County natives will be inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Softball Hall of Fame on Friday. This is the first of two stories on those women.)
Sitting in a dugout at the softball field where her career took off, Libby Hysell-Carlton reflected on the journey she made from youth recreational softball to being an all-state high school player for Colfax-Mingo High School and later an All-American for Central College in Pella.
“When I was younger and just starting out, there were no pitchers on the team. The coaches said ‘Oh, Libby, you want to try.’ I had terrible form, but I could throw it pretty hard,” Carlton said. “I just thought — this is for me.”
From there, Carlton’s softball life would be forever linked with Emily Grimes Rottinghaus. Rottinghaus and her father, Gary Grimes of Newton, coached Carlton in youth softball. Carlton would follow Rottinghaus to Central and the two Jasper County natives were standout pitchers for the Dutch.
“So, I’m just thrilled that I’m going into the softball hall of fame with my teacher. I’m honored by this but it’s extra special because Emily and I are both being inducted at the same time,” Carlton said.
Carlton, Rottinghaus, who starred at Pella Christian, along with Spirit Lake’s Rachel Gerking and Southeast Webster-Grand standout Jennifer Jorgensen are the 2013 inductees into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Softball Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony will take place at the Girls State Softball Tournament Friday, July 26, before the start of the Class 2A championship game. The state tournament is at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Park in Fort Dodge.
“My first pitching lesson with Emily, she said I could throw it hard, ‘but your form, we have a lot to work on.’ And I said I was willing to put in the work if she was,” Carlton said.
Once a week, Carlton and Rottinghaus met to work on Carlton’s pitching lessons for a really long time, she said. Carlton said they put in tons of hours in at the C-M ball field and even pitched in the C-M gym following basketball games in the winter.
“I just developed a love for it,” Carlton said. “I was bummed sometimes that my friends went to Taco John’s but I had the drive to put the hours in to get better. Once someone told me that I could pitch in college if I developed my skills, I worked hard to see if it happened.”
Carlton, who starred at Colfax-Mingo from 1994 to 1999, earned first team all-state honors as a pitcher her senior season. She compiled a career mark of 88-67.
Carlton followed Rottinghaus to Central, where she had an equally memorable career. She was a four-time NCAA tournament participant and capped her career with a national title in 2003, after finishing second in 2001. She was a part of three conference title winners.
Carlton’s college career earned run average of 0.70 is a school record at Central and she’s also first in career shutouts with 33. Her 70-16 career record includes four no-hitters and she ranks second in Central history in career strikeouts with 582.
A three-time all-conference, all-region and all-America honoree, Carlton was named the team and league MVP in 2003. She was tabbed as the NFCA player of the year, then flew to New York City where she received the Honda Award as the Division III female athlete of the year.
“To get to the college level of play, you have to have trust in a good coach and just have a love for the game. It takes hard work and determination, plus you have to give up other things in your life to be good at the sport,” she said.
Carlton has never lost the love of the game. She said she’s working with a young pitcher right now.
“Yes, I still have the form. I pitched at the Central alumni game last year and did pretty well. They hit against me but they were ground balls,” she said with a smile.
Carlton, who is the daughter of Monica and Terry Hysell, lives in Grimes with her husband Chris and their two children. She operates an in-home daycare. Her parents now live in Urbandale.
“This (Colfax) was a great place to grow up. We had a lot of support here over the years,” Carlton said of her hometown. “I’m very honored to be going in the Hall of Fame and representing Colfax-Mingo.”