Northeast Tarrant

Lady Raiders shortstop stepping into leadership role

Valerie Page has been playing softball for 75 percent of her life.

“I don’t have any idea what I’d do (without softball),” said the 16-year-old L.D. Bell shortstop. “It’s pretty much my life.”

Her Lady Raider coaches and teammates are glad she has no intention of quitting. A member of the varsity since her freshman season, she’s become one of the top young players in the Fort Worth area.

In fact, the Star-Telegram listed her among players to watch this season after her standout sophomore campaign. Page batted .460 with 36 stolen bases last season, helping the Lady Raiders reach the postseason for a fourth straight year with a 26-7 record.

“I want to be the top hitter on our team and be the best fielder on the team,” she said.

Of course, if she does accomplish those feats, the Lady Raiders will likely be back in the playoffs.

“She’s made a name for herself,” said Bell coach Thomas Shives, who is in his sixth season at the helm. “Now she’s figuring out how to make her weaknesses her strengths.”

Last season, Page was named second-team all-district in 6-5A, a very tough district. She was also academic all-district.

Page played second base and batted ninth as a freshman. Last season she moved to shortstop, a position she loves, and also moved up in the batting order to second.

And now, after her sterling 2014 at the plate, she is batting leadoff. That’s a spot Shives reserves for players he knows will get on base most of the time and make things happen once they’re on.

“That’s the table-setter,” he said. “It requires speed, the ability to get on base, and let the big girls drive her in.

“Slappers (players who slap the ball instead of swinging away) are very tough to defend. We like to put pressure on the defense by putting people on base, stealing bases, and she’s very good at that.”

Page recognizes the honor that goes with batting leadoff and relishes the opportunity.

“I like knowing that’s the position that gets something going,” she said.

Page is also strong in the field, with no errors this season.

“She’s athletic. She can cover distance base to base, and she has a strong arm,” Shives said.

Page said as much as she love being a great hitter and baserunner, her favorite part of the game is defense. She is never more thrilled than when she or a teammate makes a great defensive play.

“Nothing gets a team charged up like that,” she said.

Along with her on-field skills, Page is being asked to move into more of a leadership role off the field.

“Last year we had some seniors who ran the place. Now they’re gone, and the juniors, the leadership is thrust upon them,” said Shives. “I’m asking her to do more. The players are asking more of her, and she’s got the makeup and attitude to be a good leader.”

Page still has the rest of this season and next to build memories at Bell. However, she said one will be hard to top from her freshman season.

“It was the last game, and we had to win to be district champs,” she said. “That was such a great moment when we won.”

Page tried playing basketball and volleyball, but once she reached high school she focused solely on softball. She wants to keep playing in college after graduating Bell.

“I was just talking to my parents about making some visits,” she said. “But I want to stay within a couple hours of home.”

Shives said she would make a great addition to some college team.

“Definitely she could play at a big school,” he said. “She has the talent to do it.

“She’s got a wealth of potential, a great player and she’ll be a great player when she leaves here.”