Worth wait at the plate

Spalding senior Lauren O'Malley won't swing until she gets her pitch, and her patience usually pays off.

April 05, 2006|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Archbishop Spalding softball player Lauren O'Malley knows how to make an entrance.

In her first at-bat of the season on March 23 - facing Institute of Notre Dame pitcher Colleen Matthes, who has a career 0.96 ERA and is one of the most feared pitchers in the area - O'Malley saw her perfect pitch.

She rocked a three-run homer, as Spalding went on to win, 4-0. It began a season that the Cavaliers hope culminates in a second consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.

"It was a great way to start the season, especially against a pitcher like Colleen," O'Malley said.

The at-bat was typical for O'Malley, a senior who has a reputation of waiting for her pitch before swinging.

Last year, she batted third and played right field, batting .462 with 23 RBIs. The All-Metro performer also had six doubles, four triples and two homers among her 30 hits and scored 18 runs.

"She has got the prettiest swing," Spalding assistant coach Stacy Matcuk said. "Lefties have a pretty swing to begin with, but she's really worked at it. She makes sure her hands are out and her bat is level. She'll work on it all day at practice, and then it's nothing for her to go home and hit another 100 or 200 balls. That's the type of player she is."

O'Malley's hard work and patience have paid off at the plate: She hasn't struck out in two seasons.

"She waits for the perfect one and hits it," teammate Brittany Lounge said. "When the pitchers aren't giving her balls she likes, she takes them. She has a great eye for the ball."

This year, Spalding head coach Nicki Trumpler moved O'Malley to the cleanup spot. She also switched her position to first base, a move O'Malley accepted without complaint.

"All I can say about Lauren is that she is a tremendous young lady, both on and off the field," Trumpler said. "She is truly a team leader by example. This year she has moved from her spot in right field to fill a void at first base. She has not complained, just said she wanted to play where she would help the team. Lauren loves the game of softball and it shows in her enthusiasm day in and day out."

O'Malley is hoping to play on her third IAAM A Conference championship team in a row. As a sophomore, she was an All-Metro performer for champion Mount de Sales before transferring to Spalding.

"She made a smooth transition when she transferred to Spalding from Mount de Sales," Trumpler said. "She was able to find the right fit and be a leading contributor during the 2005 season."

Spalding pitcher Stephanie Weigman said O'Malley is an all-around standout.

"Lauren is great defensively and offensively," Weigman said. "We can always depend on her to get a hit. She's playing great at first base, always getting into position to catch wild throws."

Lounge echoed that sentiment, adding that O'Malley is respected by her peers as a team leader.

"She is a really positive role model," Lounge said. "She is so positive. ... She always helps everyone out."

O'Malley excels primarily because of the extra work she puts in, her father said. Tim O'Malley, who played baseball for UMBC, where his daughter will play softball, pitches to Lauren three or four days a week after practice to hone her batting skills.

She plays summer ball for the Riviera Beach Spirit, a travel team that recently competed in Florida, California, Colorado, Georgia, and New York. Before that, she played little league ball for her father's team, the Lady Orioles, who traveled all over the East Coast.

Through the years, O'Malley has learned to value the friends and family she's grown close to through the sport. She has also formed a special bond with her father, who has spent countless hours coaching her.

"I like the team aspect, the way your team becomes your family," she said. My best friends are always softball players. The best times in my life have been with my dad at tournaments. My dad has been a really influential person in my life, and without him, I don't know where I would be."

Her father said he's proud of how hard his daughter has worked and the valuable life lessons that she has learned through the sport.

"What separates her from many players who play the game is the additional work that she does to get better," Tim O'Malley said. "She puts in the extra work. To be good at something, you have to not only love it, but you have to live it. She's learned that. That's why she can handle the pressure in the big games and she is as good as she is."

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