BY CHRISTIAN GONZALES
Lauren MacLeod didn’t start her softball career as a catcher – or in any particular position at all, really. After all, she was 5 years old.
“When you are young like that, you go out there sitting in the outfield picking daisies,” MacLeod says. “You try to figure out what you are doing and if you like the sport or not.”
But now, as the senior starting catcher for the Long Beach State softball team, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. The team is ranked No. 20 in the nation, the highest it’s been in 10 years. It’s taking a 42-12 record into the postseason this weekend, where it’ll meet Ole Miss in the regionals of the NCAA championship in Tempe, Arizona.
“This is exactly how I’ve been wanting to play, and our team chemistry is incredible,” MacLeod said. “I love every single player on the team, and we all have the same drive. This year we have the same goal. I love being on this team right now and the competitive spirit and how much everybody wants to win.”
MacLeod’s experience behind the plate began around age 8, after she attended an Anaheim Angels game and saw catcher Jeff Mathias playing the position.
After the game, MacLeod asked her field coach to teach her the position, and she transitioned to being a catcher. She practiced with the coach for six years until high school, learning everything about being a catcher.
Going into her senior year at El Modena High School, MacLeod watched as three teammates from her travel ball team got offers from Long Beach State. When head coach Kim Sowder offered her an opportunity to play for the Beach, MacLeod committed to it right away.
Even in her freshman year, MacLeod saw opportunities behind the plate. She played in 23 games and started in 15 games.
But the communications major has truly blossomed over the past year to become an important leader for the team.
“She has probably grown up as much as any player I’ve seen come in here,” Sowder said. “She really has become a leader for us this year and I’m proud of her.”