Lackawanna Trail senior Shelby Croasdale possesses one trait that coaches in any sport value greatly.

“She’s probably the fastest player I ever coached,” Lady Lions softball coach John Brander said. “Last year, she had 23 stolen bases and she wasn’t thrown out once.”

Knowing how to use that speed to her advantage makes the centerfielder a valuable piece of the Lady Lions puzzle. Just being part of a puzzle was a big factor in Croasdale deciding to make softball her spring sport, rather than track and field.

“I like the feeling of being on a team,” Croasdale said. “In track, you’re doing it by yourself. I like the idea of being on a team. I like playing center field and that probably drove me more toward softball. I like when you catch a fly ball and throw a runner out at home — it gives you a rush.”

Croasdale, who will head to Kutztown in the fall to play field hockey, prefers to talk about her defense, rather than her offense, where she bats leadoff.

“I like defense better. I like hitting, but I’m more confident in my fielding,” she said. “Batting leadoff is nerve-wracking; if I do well, it sets the tempo for the rest of the team, that they can have a good chance of getting on base.”

Croasdale’s speed plays a big role in the Lady Lions’ defensive alignments, dictating the positioning of the corner outfielders as well as her own.

“She always gets a good jump on the ball, she covers a lot of ground and has a cannon of an arm,” Lady Lions head softball coach John Brander said. “Last year against Blue Ridge, she saved the game by throwing a kid out at third with the score tied; it would have been the winning run.”

“They tell me to take whatever I can get to,” Croasdale said. “I line up more toward right field because I feel I can get to the ball quicker going toward left field.”

Her speed is crucial on defense as the Lady Lions’ home field does not have an outfield fence, meaning that any ball that isn’t cut off by an outfielder will keep

rolling.

“There have been times where a ball would be hit, and she’d run it down and make the catch, and our coaches would wonder how she got it,” Brander said.

Brander has found other ways to take advantage of Croasdale’s speed on the defensive side of the game.

“We try to utilize her speed as often as we can,” Brander said. “On our first-and-third [defensive] play, she sneaks in to cover second.”

That allows the shortstop to cover third and the second baseman to cover first when the corner infielders are charging toward home in anticipation of a bunt.

These little extra things have made Croasdale valuable over the past three years for Brander.

“She’s a leader on and off the field,” Brander said. “She does whatever we tell her to do. She leads by example, but if she has to, she will get vocal.”

While she characterizes her batting leadoff as nerve-wracking, Brander has put Croasdale in that position because he believes she deserves to be there. In fact, when the senior is on her game, she can save her team some outs.

“She hits for a good average, and we don’t have to have her bunt,” Brander said. “The nice thing about her is we don’t have to waste a batter with a [sacrifice] bunt, just let her go and get at least a double [with a stolen base].”

Or, if she steals third as well, she is that much closer to home and can score on a flyout, if there are fewer than two outs.

It all adds up to the Lady Lions having a complete player who can impact a game many ways with her quickness on both offense and defense.