Senior service: leadership Lombardo embraces role: dTC Glenelg third baseman finds that being the team's only senior has its ups and downs.

April 21, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Jessie Lombardo's teammates on Glenelg's softball team can only imagine how she feels.

She is a senior. They are juniors and sophomores.

"When it's your last chance you feel a little differently. There is no next season," Lombardo said.

That is why Wednesday's game against visiting Centennial -- the last time she will face the rival Eagles -- is so important to her.

"When we play Centennial, I'm probably going to yell a lot," said Lombardo, an all-county third baseman who is batting .414 with 12 hits and nine RBI. "[My teammates] are going to have other chances, but this is my last shot. I would really like to go out with a win."

Said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar: "The sophomores still see it as a game. Seniors see it as a game with a little more importance."

The Gladiators (7-3, 5-1) lost to Centennial, 4-1, in the league opener for both teams.

"That was a very disappointing loss for me," said Lombardo, who will major in business on an academic scholarship next fall at Virginia Tech. "I really want to win this time."

There is little question which player provides the senior leadership to the eight sophomores and five juniors on the team.

"If we need to talk about anything, we go to her," said sophomore shortstop Pam Goldberg. "She's definitely the leader."

It is a role she enjoys, and, according to Struhar, handles well.

"I think a senior has to show the others how to get big hits," Struhar said. "You've got to lead by example, and Jessie does."

And when Lombardo talks, her teammates listen.

"They are attentive to what I say. They listen to me," Lombardo said. "It helps being the only senior."

But it also can be frustrating. Only she understands the emotions of a senior and how they relate to the season.

She was upset, for example, when she looked at her team's bench during last week's game at Atholton.

"We were losing to Atholton and I looked at the bench and a lot of them were talking about other things," said Lombardo, whose team rallied for three runs in the sixth for a 4-3 win. "That was very frustrating."

So Lombardo told the bench to, as they say, look alive.

"When we're down she gets us up," Goldberg said. "She keeps us going."

Lombardo, who began playing softball through the HCYP, made the varsity as a freshman but played sparingly.

Her breakthrough year, the one she recalls so fondly, came as a sophomore when the Gladiators won the county title.

"That was the year I started to play and get experience," said Lombardo, who played left field, right field and third base that season. "The ball started to slow down in my eyes and I was able to get a lot of clutch hits. That helped me gain a lot of respect. There was a lot of pressure back then."

Pressure from the seven seniors on the team, including The Sun's Metro Player of the Year, Jodi Kielman.

"I can remember our last game when we lost to Atholton in the regionals. Jodi took me aside and told me I better hit the ball. That sticks out in my mind," said Lombardo, who got the hit.

Lombardo definitely can hit.

"She's one of the best pure hitters that Glenelg has ever had," said Struhar. "Jessie has a perfect swing."

Lombardo batted .354 last season and had a team-leading 18 RBI. She had four doubles, a home run, scored 22 runs and had 18 stolen bases.

This is an unusal season for Glenelg. The team will split up after the season, with many players going to River Hill, and Struhar is headed to Long Reach to become its athletic director and softball coach.

"This is probably the last competitive chance Glenelg has of being good in the next couple of years," Lombardo said.

Glenelg has the talent to compete for the county title.

Certainly, it has senior leadership. And a good one at that.

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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