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Pasadena's Gibson goes for gold with U.S. national softball team

Lauren Gibson, a Chesapeake High School graduate and former University of Tennessee star, will make her fourth appearance on the USA Softball Women's National Team at this year's International Softball Federation Women's World Championships next month in the Netherlands.

Fans who want to catch a glimpse of the two-time Class 4A state champion won't have to leave the country, though.

Gibson and the rest of the USA National Team will hold a clinic at Laurel Springs Park in Waldorf on July 28 followed by a doubleheader the next day against the Maryland-DC All-Stars of the Amateur Softball Association at Regency Furniture Stadium, home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

It will be a rare opportunity for Gibson, a Pasadena resident, to play close to home. Her only other appearance in the area since graduating from Chesapeake in 2009 was an exhibition game at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie.

"It will be really nice because my family and friends can come to the game," said Gibson, reached by cell phone on Wednesday in Morgantwon, W.Va., where she was preparing for another exhibition with the USA National Team. "Playing at Tennessee, I didn't really get to play close to home too much."

The clinic will take place on July 28 from 9 a.m. to noon and will be conducted by Ken Eriksen, head coach of Team USA and the University of South Florida, and his staff. It is open to girls ages 6 to 16, with participants divided into small groups by age and ability.

"I think you can only do so much at a clinic," Gibson said. "We'll just try to teach some of the basics, and if you can leave having learned at least one thing we did our job. We'll also be available to answer any questions the girls might have."

Gibson played on the National Team the last three years, including 2012 when she hit .500 with five home runs and 18 RBIs to help USA win a silver medal. A spot on the team is not guaranteed, as Gibson and the rest of her teammates have to try out each year. (Broadneck graduate Kourtney Salvarola, also a member of last year's team, chose not to try out this year.)

Gibson also played on teams that have played in the World Cup of Softball and the Pan American Games.

"It's no given that you're on the team each year, and I agree with that," Gibson said. "The spots go to the players who will give the team the best chance to win gold."

Following Thursday's exhibition in West Virginia, Gibson and the rest of the team are off to Irvine, California for the World Cup of Softball IX from July 7-13.

Gibson, who graduated from Tennessee this year with a criminal justice degree, wrapped up her playing career for the Volunteers in 2013. She was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2013 when she hit .401 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs in 64 games. She was also a member of the SEC All-Defensive Team and was a Top Ten finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year.

"It was amazing, and I couldn't have done it without my teammates and coaches," said Gibson, who hit .361 with 46 home runs and 216 RBIs during her college career. "To be the SEC player of the year is so amazing because there were so many great athletes in the conference."

Gibson, who lives with her parents in Pasadena when she's not traveling with the National Team, plans to attend graduate school at the University of South Florida in the fall.

"Having watched Lauren play at Chesapeake and watching her continue to work to be one of the best players in college softball has been awesome," Chesapeake coach Don Ellenberger said. "Watching her play for Team USA has been unbelievable. Who would have thought that a softball player from Pasadena, Maryland, would be on Team USA?"

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