Sports: Senior brings experience to Lakenheath softball team
April 4, 2007
RAF LAKENHEATH — After seeing Lakenheath senior Maggie Pforts on the school’s softball diamond, the nickname “Grandma,” doesn’t seem to apply.
The 18-year-old second baseman is aggressive on the bases and quick to react to sizzling grounders when defending her plot of dirt in the infield.
Pforts’ teammates use the matriarchal term to tease her about her elder status as the only returning senior on the Lakenheath varsity softball squad. She is set to help lead the team on a campaign that coaches and players hope will result in a successful assault on the European championships this spring.
“I just call her that because she’s a senior,” sophomore pitcher Jessica Serd said of the nickname.
Confident and well-spoken, Pforts has much experience on a perennially powerful team that has seen a drop in the average age of its players this season, with freshmen and sophomores outnumbering the upperclassmen.
Coach John Gilmore said he is looking to Pforts for leadership, and teammates say that when she talks or gives advice, they listen.
“She’s easygoing, but when you screw up, you know you screwed up,” said 17-year-old junior pitcher Rebecca Groff.
An Air Force brat, Pforts has been playing “forever,” she said, starting in children’s leagues in the fourth or fifth grade, and almost always has stuck to the infield.
“Outfield is not really my thing. It’s like a foreign concept,” she said. Second base, she added, “just kind of fits.”
Gilmore says Pforts is a versatile player, as she displayed in the Lady Lancers’ friendly opening games against Alconbury two weeks ago, when she filled in at catcher.
Versatility is likely a quality she started building in middle school, when she was playing softball three seasons a year at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, before coming to Lakenheath.
“I just like it,” she said of the sport. “It doesn’t feel the same not doing it.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Pforts and Gilmore said the senior’s hitting could use some work, especially in a year in which the coach said the team may have to lean on its offense to win early games.
“Right now, our offense is better than our defense, and that needs to change,” Gilmore said.
Lakenheath plays under a heavy burden of expectation. Since the Department of Defense Dependents Schools added fast-pitch softball to its program, the Lady Lancers have won three of eight European titles (Ramstein in Germany has the other five) and several runner-up and third-place honors, Gilmore said.
For Pforts, it’s a last shot at a title before she heads off to the University of Iowa to study business. There, she hopes to keep playing intramural softball or possibly get into coaching, though she isn’t likely to try to play for the university, she said.
“I’d definitely like to stay involved,” she said.
In the meantime, she has a high school team to help lead, which players said she does with aplomb.
“She is kind of like our grandmother,” Groff said with a laugh. “She’s a really nice girl, on the field and off the field.”