By Nelson Coffin, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:08 AM EDT, April 30, 2012
There's no getting around the fact that it's been a down year for Friends on the diamond this spring. The Quakers are mired in last place in the Black Division of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference with a 3-7 record in league play and a 4-9 overall mark.
That means the season has hardly been brimming with uplifting moments — with at least one exception.
Senior Aislinn Cook, the only female in the league, can bring a smile to the most beleaguered Friends fan, player or coach with her positive attitude and perseverance.
After all, at 5 feet 5 and 128 pounds, the senior is a picture of competitive spirit that makes things seem a little bit brighter in an otherwise bleak campaign.
"Our team has suffered a lot of injuries this year, so the down year has not been completely controllable," she said. "I still love the sport regardless of a less-than-awesome season. I have had a lot of fun with this group of guys, and, although we haven't been winning, we've grown closer as a team and are still having fun."
Despite her size, Cook refuses to cower against opponents hoping to raise her discomfort level.
The four-year varsity performer, who admits to "being a little intimidated as a freshman," now knows how to stand her ground during the rigors of a season.
"I have been hit by a pitch and I've split my finger, but it hasn't been too difficult," said Cook, who will attend Tufts University in the fall.
As a reserve outfielder, Cook doesn't get a ton of opportunities to play, although she is usually inserted late in the game for defensive purposes. She also draws courtesy runner duties for coach Brett Linnenkohl and said she has "a few stolen bases this year.
"I'm not the biggest or the strongest," she added. "I can't make crazy throws of 300 feet, but I know how to hit the cutoff man. I'm consistent, and I run the bases well."
Cook is also pretty darn determined, too, as a bunt down the first base line in a game a couple of years ago showed.
That's when she ran over the opposing pitcher as he tried to field the ball.
She arrived safely at first before the rival hurler, who weighed a good 80 pounds more than she, had to be helped off the field.
"My teammates thought it was hilarious," Cook said, noting that they were laughing about her audacity, rather than his injury.
She also showed what she was made of in the fall after the starting soccer goalie went down with an injury before the season and Cook volunteered to play the position for the first time.
Despite a relative lack of experience, Cook was instrumental in the Quakers finishing the season as a third seed in the IAAM B Conference that fell to Severn in a semifinal.
She was also the starting keeper on the Friends A Conference champion indoor soccer squad.
Competeing against boys on the varsity level, though, is a more daunting proposition that few girls are willing to attempt.
That's why her baseball coach had a few questions when he came into the program as an assistant to Tom Randall three years ago.
"When you see a girl play, you wonder what she brings to the table," said Linnenkohl, a former standout outfielder at Wake Forest University. "What's great about Aislinn is that she's one of the smartest players I've coached. She blends in with her teammates and is an inspirational leader."
Linnenkohl knows what he's getting when he brings in Cook from the bench.
"She hasn't made an error in three years," he said. "She just doesn't make mistakes. And when it comes to her teammates. she's just one of the guys. There's no holding back — on their part or hers — when they're doing drills. She's always pushing to make herself and them better players."