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2008 SOFTBALL PREVIEW:

A catcher is often compared to many things when it comes to describing their role on the diamond. A quarterback, a field general and a backstop are just a few that are most commonly used.

When it comes to Crescenta Valley senior catcher Lainey De Pompa, you can simply use all of the above.

The Falcons boast an impressive core of standout softball players and for the past three seasons, De Pompa has been their rock behind the plate, keeping everything under control.

“She is our quarterback,” Crescenta Valley Coach Dan Berry said. “She’s able to stay focused in a game when some people might become rattled. She’s able to stay on top of her game.”

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In part due to De Pompa’s calm, cool and collected demeanor on the field, the Falcons finished 22-6 last season and grabbed a share of the Pacific League championship, their ninth in the last 10 years.

Crescenta Valley returns most of its top players from a team that advanced to the second round of the CIF playoffs before falling, 1-0, to Fullerton and De Pompa feels this year’s team has the ability to improve even further.

“I’m hoping we will win league again and have a very successful season,” she said. “I’m just hoping that we all play our very best. … I definitely want to make it further than we did last year and go after a ring. I think we are very capable.”

While a lot of Major League Baseball catchers are often limited offensively and are forced to focus most of their attention on defense, De Pompa is one of those rare athletes who can do it all.

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The four-year varsity player racked up a .345 batting average last season, driving in 20 runs in the process, while also compiling an astounding .994 fielding percentage.

Her versatility is a reason DePompa was recruited by schools like Iowa, Kentucky and Michigan State.

Eventually, DePompa accepted a scholarship to play collegiately at UC Santa Barbara and Berry feels the Gauchos are getting a steal.

“Mechanically, she’s fine behind the plate and she hits well,” Berry said. “She offers the complete package. Santa Barbara is getting the real deal when they get her.”

The recruiting process had its share of peaks and valleys for DePompa, but in the end, she couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.

“Getting offered by somewhere close, with a good program and wonderful coaches, it was really nice,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”

For the Falcons, De Pompa fills a key role as the team’s cleanup hitter.

With sluggers such as Boise State-bound first baseman Ashleigh Viers-Gordillo, shortstop Baillie Kirker, who has verbally committed to Arizona, and returning first-team all-league selections Caitlyn Cox and Stephanie Ziemann in the lineup, having a dependable bat like De Pompa’s in the middle of the order is invaluable.

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“She hits fourth for us,” Berry said. “She is normally put in a position to protect Baillie. So if they want to walk Baillie, they are going to get a dose of Lainey.”

Kirker is quick to acknowledge that having De Pompa bat behind her helps put her at ease.

“It’s very comforting knowing that there is an experienced player behind me and that she can be put in any situation and handle herself really well,” said Kirker, a former All-Area Player of the Year.

While De Pompa thrives at the plate, it is the work ethic and leadership she brings to the team that set her apart.

“Lainey is a great asset to our team,” Kirker said. “She’s strong behind the plate, she runs the field. She’s just an awesome player. She’s helpful to everybody.”

Over the years, De Pompa has proven that she is going to be a sturdy force her teammates can lean on when they need it the most, and it’s a role she relishes.

“I love being in the tight situations,” said De Pompa, who belted seven doubles last year. “When the game is on the line, I want to be up there and I want to give it everything I can to help my team win.”

And as the season is quickly approaching, De Pompa is hard at work, pushing to make herself and her team better as they begin to chase down a league and CIF championship.

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Not surprising coming from this catcher, who seems to embody everything the position is about.


?DYLAN KRUSE covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3252 or dylan.kruse@latimes.com.


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