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March 27, 2009
Vol. 50 No. 19

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In the Limelight

Leader makes strides on field

Courtesy of Sports Information
SWING -- Laurie Blaszka swings at a pitch during previous action. Blaszka has excelled this season leading the team with10 RBIs.
For someone like Laurie Blaszka, leadership isn't a skill that needs to be thought about before being put into action -- it is simply a way of life.

Being a leader was instilled in Blaszka by her parents and expounded upon through her experiences as a Girl Scout and all-star athlete.

She has established herself over the years as someone who, in her own words, "means business."

Blaszka hails from Washington, N.J., where she began playing softball at the age of seven in an area pony league.

She was named Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in high school and earned the Leadership Award as a senior captain.

Now a second-year co-captain of the Susquehanna women's softball team, the 21-year-old first baseman will graduate with many accomplishments to show for the focused and take-charge attitude that she has applied to all aspects of her life.

Blaszka is a mathematics secondary education major and currently student teaches fulltime at Selinsgrove Area High School.

She teaches various types of math to students in grades 9 through 12, and though the job is exhausting, she said she appreciates and enjoys the experience.

"It's definitely a lot of work, but I love going to school every day," Blaszka said.

"I like dealing with the kids and getting to know more about them. The lifestyle around here is totally different than from where I grew up, so it's neat to see what they're interested in, what gets them excited. They talk to me about sports a lot, like coming in and telling me they got a hit in yesterday's baseball game. It's cool to connect with them from day to day," she added

After an eight-hour day in the classroom, Blaszka dons cleats and a glove and goes to work on the softball field.

The same patience and focus that Blaszka uses in the classroom with her students comes out in a different form on the field with her teammates as she and senior co-captain Gretchen Halsey take charge in practices and games.

"Laurie has natural leadership skills," head softball coach Kathy Kroupa said.

"She takes control in different situations, has good communication skills and is all about the welfare of her teammates, both on and off the field."

Freshman outfielder Lisa Finizio said: "Laurie is a strong leader because she is passionate about what she does. She enjoys playing softball and wants what is best for the team all the time."

Blaszka has been connected with the women's softball team since her freshman year.

She made the team in the fall of 2005 and was looking forward to her first team trip to Walt Disney World for the annual spring break tournament.

However, one wrong landing on the first play of an intramural game at a regional tournament meant a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee and no hope for any playing time in her freshman season.

True to form, however, Blaszka displayed the same determination that had gotten her that far in life and threw herself into physical therapy, doubling the normal amount of training sessions per week.

She was also diligently dedicated to the team, attending practices, keeping the statistics book at games and even traveling with the team to Florida.

"Her dedication to the team during her year out was a great testament to her character," Kroupa said.

Blaszka said that watching her teammates play without her was difficult, but inspiring.

"Not being able to play or to do what you want for such a long time really fuels you to get better for you team and for yourself," she said.

Since officially returning to the team her sophomore year, Blaszka has steadily gone to work and has scored a few spots in the record books for Susquehanna softball.

Her career slugging percentage of .513 places her sixth out of ten.

She is tied at third for the most doubles in a season with eight, at eighth for most triples in a season with four, and at third for most homeruns in a season with five.

"I think I bring something with my presence, and people can just tell: 'Laurie means business,' Blaszka said.

"Somebody has to lead, and I've always just taken it on as my job. My teammates can look up to me, ask for advice and confide in me," she added.

"Off the field, she is a really good friend and would be there if you ever needed anything," Holota said. "And I have learned [from her] that even when things aren't going your way on the field, you need to stay positive. That big hit will come soon or that big play will happen and things will turn around."

"She has shown me ways of how to compose myself when things are not going right," Finizio said. "I appreciate her focus and leadership on the field, and she has furthered by knowledge of how to be a good leader on and off the field."

Kroupa said: "Her consistency as a person and a player will definitely be missed. You always know what you're going to get with Laurie. She has done a lot of really good things for the program, not just statistically, but as a person."

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