Shortstop Lauren Strebel stands out on the softball field, but what the Cloverleaf senior really likes is how the Colts have become one.
“I just love working together as a team and being able to fight and compete,” the 17-year-old said Monday. “It’s not just about one person. It’s about everyone. I love that family atmosphere and the support everyone gives.”
Fresh off a sectional final win over No. 2 seed Wadsworth — it was the second time the Colts beat the Grizzlies in three meetings this season — sixth-seeded Cloverleaf (14-15) will take on No. 5 seed Brunswick (15-11) at 4:30 p.m. today in Barberton Division I District semifinal action.
Strebel, who is hitting .431 with four home runs and 22 runs batted in, will be right in the middle of the action as one of three talented Medina County shortstops involved in the district.
Brunswick features rangy and strong-armed sophomore Paige Salisbury, while Medina is led by do-everything junior Vanessa Scoarste, who already has a scholarship to continue her career at Kent State. All three county players hit third in the order for their teams.
“I saw something special in her as she came into high school,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said of Strebel. “She had a strong arm and the intensity that is needed at shortstop. I knew her first year would be tough, but I also knew it would pay dividends in the end.
“She works so hard in practice. On top of that, she’ll go home and hit the ball 200 more times off a tee.”
Now in her fourth year on the varsity, the 5-foot-6½, 145-pound Strebel makes sure everyone in the infield knows the situation and their responsibilities.
“I love her at shortstop because I don’t have to worry about plays being made,” Carmigiano said. “She lives and breathes softball. I’ve never seen a kid that loves getting to the softball field — all the time — as much as Lauren does.”
Strebel, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average and plans to go into pre-med while playing softball at D-III Muskingum College, has grown up around the game.
Older sister Audrey played third base for the Colts before graduating in 2010, and younger sister Corinne, a second-grader, is already involved in the sport. Strebel’s father, Travis, is in his fifth season as Carmigiano’s varsity assistant.
In the summer, Strebel plays for the Ohio Outlaws, whose roster also includes talented Wadsworth catcher Sam Ryan. Last year, the under-16 Outlaws reached the national tournament in Alabama. This year, the U-18 team Strebel will play shortstop for will compete in tournaments in Chicago, Philadelphia and Columbus.
“Sometimes, playing short can be stressful, but I love it,” Strebel said. “There’s a lot of action there, and I love action.”
Strebel, who also has six doubles and two triples for a .648 slugging percentage, has scored 22 runs and has a .505 on-base percentage.
“I just want to put the ball in play every at-bat,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes you get that perfect swing and it goes over the fence.”
The Colts will be looking for a different kind of home run today when they play Brunswick, as a win will put them in the district championship.
“Right now is the perfect time,” Strebel said. “It’s tournament season.”
The key, one of Cloverleaf’s individual standouts reiterated, will be playing as one.
“We get along very well,” Strebel said. “We work together and pick each other up a lot. If someone messes up — and that’s bound to happen from time to time — we’re right there for one another.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.