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RMU recruit backs up her bat with defense

Kristen Gabelt's stats are impressive enough. But, according to her coach, it's what you can't see on paper that makes her an NCAA Division I softball player.

Gabelt, a senior at Ligonier Valley, signed a national letter of intent last week to play at Robert Morris, where she'll join a Colonials program that won the Northeast Conference regular-season title last year.

It's a well-deserved opportunity for Gabelt, according to Ligonier Valley coach Mark Zimmerman, though it's not just because Gabelt had a .648 batting average, 14 home runs and 51 RBI as a junior.

"The offensive numbers everybody looks at and says, 'Oh, that's great,' and all that stuff," Zimmerman said. "But the more you look at a player, especially if you're looking at the Division I level, you have to look and say, 'Can this girl play defense?' The offense is fine and all that jazz, but you can only hit so many times.

"The defensive end -- sometimes it doesn't get mentioned," Zimmerman added. "She's played a bunch of positions for us: first base, third base, center field. She's always been somewhere where she's going to get a lot of action. And I think that speaks as much volume as however many home runs you hit."

With that reliable defense and team highs in all three aforementioned offensive categories, Gabelt helped lead Ligonier Valley to a 20-2 record last season and a run to the District 6 semifinals.

She then made a verbal commitment to Robert Morris in July after considering Albany, Marist and Indiana (Pa.) and signed with the Colonials last Wednesday.

"Basically, it was almost like the perfect fit," Gabelt said. "It had everything that I wanted. The distance was two hours away. I didn't want to go real, real far away from home. The campus was beautiful. I met the coaches, they were awesome. I met the team, and they were awesome, too. So, it was like everything clicked."

Gabelt said the Robert Morris coaches haven't told her what position she'll play in college, but she said she can play any position but pitcher and catcher - something her coach has picked up on.

"We've played her wherever we needed a defensive girl," Zimmerman said. "That alone speaks volumes not only for her diversity, but also for her team willingness. She says, 'Wherever I've got to go, coach, I go.' She's played a lot of places for us."

"As for the offense, she's still going to hit," Zimmerman said. "The girl's just a pure hitter. If the pitcher's not on top of her game, she's going to make her pay big time."

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