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Atholton's Gavin steals spotlight on the diamond


Atholton's Chrissy Gavin is the last person opponents want to put on base. Unfortunately for them, she is usually the first one to get there.

And once she's on, she's gone.

She stole 20 bases in the Raiders' first 10 games. Wednesday, the senior leadoff hitter tied a school single-game record with five steals in a 12-1 win over Howard.

Gavin also owns the other school records for steals. She set the season mark of 35 last year and broke the career record more than a year ago. That total stands at 95 -- and counting.

Her speed and lightning-quick jump make her almost impossible to throw out, so the opposition has just one strategy against her.

"Our whole game plan when we play Atholton is keep her off of the bases," said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar. "That's it -- keep her off the bases and we've got an excellent chance of winning. If we let her run wild on the bases, we're going to get killed."

Struhar knows the consequences all too well.

In last year's regional semifinal, the Gladiators put Gavin on base three times and she scored three runs. In the seventh inning, she reached on an infield hit, stole second and third and scored on a fly ball to give the Raiders a 5-4 victory.

On the other hand, the Gladiators kept Gavin off base in their first meeting this season and came away with a 9-1 win. Gavin was 0-for-4 in that game.

That's a rare day for the All-Metro second-team shortstop, who scored 38 runs last year as the Raiders reached the Class 2A state championship game. So far this year, she has scored 19 runs.

Now, Gavin has shifted her focus to improving her hitting. Although she bats .448 with a .595 on-base percentage, Gavin wants to add to her extra-base total of two doubles and two triples.

"I'm not looking to be satisfied with a single so I can steal bases like last year," said Gavin. "Last year, my goal was to get the season record and the career record. I'm not really worried about the steals this year because that takes away from the batting. I'm still looking to steal, but I'm not going to be satisfied with a single."

Gavin has had that kind of drive to excel pretty much since she started playing T-ball at 4 years old. It shows especially in the field when she dives for balls anywhere near her and usually comes up with them.

"Chrissy plays the game like it's meant to be played," said Struhar. "She has an air of professionalism about her. Watch her dive for balls even if she doesn't get them, watch how she handles herself in the field, watch how she moves after balls, watch how she takes relays. I talk about her to my kids all the time. She's a good role model for these kids, for all the kids."

Two years ago, Gavin joined the Bandits, an 18-and-under Amateur Softball Association/Junior Olympic team based in Glen Burnie that pits her against some of the top talent in the Middle Atlantic states.

Gavin, who played baseball until sixth grade and ASA since seventh, practices all year with the Bandits and plays a 60-game summer schedule. Last summer, the Bandits just missed qualifying for the national tournament in Sacramento.

Playing with the Bandits not only helped her hone her skills but helped her draw the attention of college coaches. Recruited by about 10 schools, Gavin signed Wednesday with Division I Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where she plans to study physical therapy.

A 3.9 grade-point average combined with her athletic ability earned the National Honor Society member a part academic-part athletic scholarship worth about $12,000 her freshman year and more in later years.

With a senior shortstop ahead of her, Gavin probably won't see a whole lot of action next spring, but she has set her sights on earning the starting position in her sophomore year.

Atholton softball coach Dave Vitagliano expects Gavin will achieve that goal. He has seen her set high goals and achieve them on the field and in the classroom, where he chose her to be bTC editor-in-chief of the Atholton yearbook, "Reflections."

"She's pretty driven," said Vitagliano. "Chrissy's really conscientious about everything. Whatever you ask of her in school, softball or whatever, she'll work hard to do it. "I've got to believe she's got a lot of potential [for college softball]. From the way I see it, her talents are just scratching the surface."

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