March 12, 2003

In Softball, May Begins in March

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Thinking back on his recruiting visit to Commack High School two years ago, the thing that impressed Cornell head coach Dick Blood was sophomore shortstop Lauren May’s defensive prowess.

“There was an ugly field towards the end of practice. The field was all torn up, she was deep in the infield, she backhands it and throws a strike across to first base. I said, ‘that’s enough, let’s see her hit,'” Blood described. “At that point, I knew there was something special defensively.”

However, by the end of her freshman season at Cornell, May had earned accolades with not just her glove, but with her bat, becoming one of the most feared sluggers in the league. During the 2002 season, May broke the school’s single season home run record with 16, which was also tops in the Ivy League. She drove in 52 runs, which also led the Ancient Eight, while sporting a .366 batting average, good for fourth. For her accomplishments, May was selected the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and was a first-team All-Ivy pick.

“She commands the respect of her teammates; she commands the respect because of her prowess at the plate by our opponents in the league,” Blood said. “They know who she is.”

While at Commack High, May was a star in three sports — softball, field hockey, and basketball. However, she excelled most in softball, as she led her team to the Suffolk County championships three times on her way to U.S. Navy Scholastic All-America honors. When it came time to choose a college, May decided to stay in-state.

“Prior to coming here, the softball team had won the Ivies. I spoke with the coach, he seemed to know his stuff very well, he had a great background,” May explained. “I was really looking forward to playing for the team, and of course, Cornell has a great academic standing.”

May’s playing days began when she was just five years old. After playing in a tee-ball league, she started Little League softball. And she hasn’t looked back since.

“Both my parents had a very big influence in my life,” she said. “They pushed me to do well in school and also to do well in softball. They were willing to do anything to take me to tournaments, take me to Little League games, spend their weekends on the road — whatever they had to do.”

Despite her success, May is open to suggestions, going to practice each day looking to improve.

“She comes ready to learn. She comes wide-eyed and open still. She’s very eager to learn,” Blood said. “Is there a more humble or modest young lady? I don’t think that there is.”

The shortstop is also one of the Red’s most popular players.

“She’s just a real pleasure to be around all the time,” Blood said. “Her teammates just adore her and respect her.”

Yet, despite May’s staggering offensive output a season ago, the Red was unable to replicate its Ivy League championship performance from 2001. Besides May and junior Kate Varde, no other regular in the Cornell lineup batted over .300. By season’s end, opponents began pitching around May, resulting in 22 walks.

“She had a big banner year last year, but in order for her to have another big year and for us to jump on her coattails, other kids are going to have to hit around her,” Blood said. “We saw in the second half of the season that some things tailed off because we weren’t hitting well enough, so they pitched around her and Varde all the time.”

For her part, May isn’t concerned about that being a problem this time around.

“It was definitely frustrating. It was hard to get up to the plate to get a good pitch to hit,” she said of last year. “But I think they will pitch to me.”

With her big bat and sure-handed defense, May will be a top contender for individual honors again this season. But according to her, there’s one trophy she’d much rather hold.

“It feels good to win those awards,” May said. “But I think I’d rather trade all of those awards for an Ivy championship. That would definitely feel the best.”

Archived article by Alex Ip