From the start, a hit at leadoff

The Baltimore Sun

Chapelgate senior shortstop Lauren Ahrens, who has batted leadoff since the first game of her freshman year, has made her mark on the program as she enters the final few weeks of her high school career. She is its career leader in batting average (.410), hits (108), RBIs (104), runs scored (126), stolen bases (55), triples (14) and home runs (six).

Numbers aside, Ahrens' complete attention is on one thing: Helping the team capture its first Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference championship. Going into the week, the Yellowjackets (11-4) were in first place with a 9-2 league mark.

Ahrens, who maintains a 3.7 grade-point average, is a member of the National Honor Society and is on the Senior Class Board.

Each summer throughout high school, she has gone on missions with her church to West Virginia, helping renovate houses and teaching youth Bible studies. After graduation, Ahrens plans to attend Howard Community College and teach her church's middle school youth group.

She roots for the Orioles -- Brian Roberts is her favorite player -- and enjoys watching Maryland Terrapins basketball.

How are things going on the softball field, and what has been the key to the team's success this season?

Taking over first place was exciting. We have our momentum going and everything is coming together. Over the winter, all the upperclassmen met and we established what our goals would be for the season. All the upperclassmen have been close-knit and we're trying to fulfill our goal of winning a championship, and with that, having fun, too.

It's been working out very well and it's been a lot of fun. Our team unity has been a lot better this year, and I think that's made a big difference.

How important is team unity in softball?

It's such a team sport, and our bench has been great just cheering. Very encouraging. When you go up there, you just want to do it for the team. Once one person gets it going, we always rally after one another.

What's the key to being successful as a leadoff hitter?

For me, I like to set the pace of the game. I think it gives confidence to my team when I go up there and get on base. They can see that you can hit this pitcher and you can get on base and it's possible. They follow that, and then we can score runs early in a game. I just like being in control and showing an example to the rest of the team.

What are your responsibilities as a team captain this season? Basically, I've been trying to keep the morale up and really encourage everybody to do their best. Whatever happens, happens. Its been kind of cool to see how everyone responds in different ways. We've also had a couple of team events that has helped get everybody closer.

The upperclassmen have really come together. They know what they want to do, so the sophomores and freshmen have a good example to follow.

After making the semifinals the past couple seasons, what's it going to take to win a championship this year? If we keep playing the way we've been playing, we'll be fine. We've just been doing our best and haven't let the other teams dictate how we play. So if we continue to do what we do -- we're pretty confident at the plate, our pitcher [Meghan Black] has been throwing awesome and our defense has been strong this year. We've had to make a couple adjustments, but I think we've found a good [lineup].

How's it feel to be in your senior year?

I'm just trying to soak it all in, but at the same time I'm excited for next year, starting college and that kind of stuff. I will be upset because I'm not going to be playing softball, I've decided on that. So I'm trying to enjoy the last few weeks of this season.

What are the benefits of going to a smaller school like Chapelgate Christian?

I like going to a smaller school because you get to know a lot more people, and when you walk around the hallways you always see someone you know. It's just really cool because everyone is fairly close-knit.

Do you have any role models?

My coach [John Isaac]. He sets a good example for the team and also applies life skills -- not necessarily just softball, but off the softball field as well. And God has been a big part of who I am, just trying to serve him and that kind of thing with what he has given me.

What's the week like with the summer mission in West Virginia?

One week during July, we go to Fairmont, W. Va., and we have a host family [and] we do work on their houses. And through the work, we just want to show them why we're there and tell them about God and about his love.

We also do vacation Bible school for the kids with skits and games and Bible activities.

I've been going for four years, and I just want to go back because I get things out of it each year.

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