When talking with Rachel Gebelein of Lake Norman Charter School, it is quickly apparent what she means to her softball team.
Just a sophomore this season, Gebelein put up mind-boggling numbers her freshmen year for the Knights. She led the team with a .590 batting average, and a .645 on base percentage. The 5-foot-7 Gebelein also led from the mound, going 5-3 with 103 strikeouts and just 21 walks, while maintaining a 1.83 ERA.
"When I first moved here I saw a young lady pitching in our neighborhood out on a field," head coach Kyle Pierce said. "I had no idea who she was, so I just drove past while thinking that she looked like a good pitcher and could be a real asset."
Taking up pitching at the age of 8, Gebelein has always had a love for the game. But when word came from Pierce that LNCS, who is in just their third year as a high school, may not have enough girls to start up a team, Gebelein hit the recruiting trail.
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"I was really excited because I wanted to have a softball team so badly," she said. "When coach told me we might not have one, I was so upset. I started going out and getting girls' numbers and [telling them] we have to have a softball team because it would be so much fun. People told me they had never played before, and I would just tell them that's what practice is for."
Pierce couldn't be more thankful for such a determined player.
"Before we made the decision [to go forward with a team], I had girls coming up to me saying that Rachel told them they had to play," Pierce said. "She wanted to start this program, so I had girls signing up that had never played before. That showed me how much respect they had for her."
Gebelein was promptly elected one of two team captains her freshmen year, an honor that she has retained at the beginning of this season.
"I want people to be able to look up to me," she said. "I want to set an example for those who are younger than me too. That's just really important because if you're going to be a leader, you have to lead people."
Gebelein is also impressive in the classroom, where she carries a 4.0 GPA and does not sound like your typical 16-year-old.
"I really like to study and learn new things," she said. "I think it's really fun. School always comes first, and my parents understand that. A lot of times I just get home and go upstairs to start studying. What I really want to do is go to college and play ball, but I can't have bad grades and do that."
Pierce believes that if Gebelein continues to work and stay focused, she can accomplish that goal.
"She has the want, desire and the skill," he said. "She just has to keep going and get to that next level."
Pierce looks forward to seeing what Gebelein can accomplish over the next three seasons.
"Out of all the years I've coached, she's shown me that she cares about the game more than most," he said. With a full season of competition ahead, Gebelein looks to lead her team to the next level. She sees a chance for the team to be even better this year.
"I want states," she said. "I really think that we have the potential to do that. We have a lot of new talent coming up. I see the girls last year who had never played working over the summer, so we've been together a whole lot. It's a really good thing we've got going."