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First Class

April 5, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Kristine Priebe isn’t the type to actively seek attention.

The spotlight just seems to find her.

Her latest accolade is being named a finalist for Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The 10 finalists for the award, which is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying In School® and recognizes student-athletes making a positive difference in the community, was pared down from 30 candidates and was announced last week.

Anyone around the Georgia Tech program could have told you Priebe has embodied those characteristics and was worthy long before last week.

“It is a reward,” said Head Softball Coach Sharon Perkins. “For her to go through what she went through her first two seasons and then to come in here and have success and this year have another successful season is nice because she takes part in a lot of off-the-field activities as well. This is kind of part of that.”

The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award celebrates student-athletes for their contributions as leaders on the field and in the community. Priebe has made a concerted effort to excel at both.

“I’ve been working on trying to be a leader ever since I got here,” said the native of Moorpark, Calif., who transferred from the University of Florida. “I think it shows in some areas. Being on the infield, I think it’s important to have a leader there. This is my last year. Why not go all out?”

Last season, Priebe was named All-ACC First Team and All-Southeast Region Second Team after hitting .331, with 15 homers, and 59 RBIs with a .657 slugging average, a.491 on-base percentage, and, on defense, a .988 fielding percentage.

In 2011, she’s raised her game. She’s hitting .354, with 10 homers, 36 RBI, with a .768 slugging percentage, all in the top five on the team. The bigger the situation, the more dangerous Priebe becomes. She’s batting .326 with runners in scoring position, .545 with a runner on third and less than two out, .378 with a runner on third and two out, and has 14 two-out RBIs.

“There are certain roles that everybody has to fulfill,” she said. “Part of my job is to produce runs when there are two outs or produce runs when there are runners on base. I know that that’s my job. So that’s what I have to get done.”

Getting it done also means being unselfish. She’s leading the team with a .612 average in advancing runners, and, on Sunday, showed that she doesn’t even have to put the ball in play to contribute, as she drew a walk preceding Jessica Sinclair’s homer in Tech’s 2-0 victory over Maryland, that earned the Jackets the series sweep.

Defensively, she hasn’t made an error all season.

It’s a tremendous season even by the standards Priebe has already set.

“I think that a lot of it is her work ethic,” said junior outfielder/2B Shannon Bear. “She’s always coming in doing extra things, hitting a lot, coming in for extra practice and I think it’s really showed in her at-bats. She’s having a great year and she’s been a great senior leader on the team.”

“I absolutely love her,” said sophomore pitcher and Priebe’s roommate, Hope Rush. “We talked a little bit over this summer and she wanted to step up her game mentally and on the field. She has stepped up and has helped not just me, but other people around her. It’s great to have a leader and someone on the field and off the field that can help you. She leads by example. Whether it’s being vocal or leading on the field. She’s stepped up a lot even between last year and this year.”

Priebe, who will graduate next May with a degree in public policy, found herself upon coming to Atlanta after transferring from Gainesville. Georgia Tech softball and the surrounding community have benefited.

“I’ve enjoyed everything about Georgia Tech,” she said. “The opportunities that I’ve gotten here have really filled my softball dreams since I was a little kid. I think that being able to come out here and prove myself has been the greatest thing that has happened to me for softball.”

Priebe is about so much more than softball. She has a goal of following in her mother’s footsteps by being a firefighter (her father is a retired police officer). She is a Certified First Responder and would like to intern with the Atlanta Fire Department next year. She also volunteers at Kennedy Middle School, helping learning-disabled kids as part of Project Eye-To-Eye.

“I enjoy working with little girls all the time,” said Priebe, who herself overcame a learning disability. “Seeing them learn is very, very rewarding. I didn’t really realize it until I started working with girls how rewarding the coaching aspect is.”

While her eligibility runs out after this season, she’d like to stay around the team in a coaching capacity. She is already serving as an unofficial coach.

“I respect Kristine a lot. She has helped me, personally,” said freshman catcher/3B Alysha Rudnik. “She’s thrown me batting practice before. She’s always been willing to. She’s hit me grounders. So she’s definitely willing to help out if I ever need anything.

“Another thing about her is her knowledge of the game,” Rudnik continued. “When we’re watching teams, when we’re watching film, she’s really intent trying to pick up tendencies of pitchers, watching the signs and stuff. So she usually knows the signs before we go into games, which helps a lot. Anything she knows she’ll tell us and she’s always making sure on defense, she’ll always tell me what the situation is. She’s really good at getting us focused.”

Priebe’s ability to stay grounded and focused on team success has impressed her teammates.

“She does not let anything go to her head at all,” Rush said. “She’s always said if you do what you’re supposed to do, everything will fall into place. [Awards are] just a bonus. We have goals as a team and that’s just something extra.”

There’s also the fun side that her teammates have come to love about her.

“She’s intense but she knows how to have fun and be silly,” said Bear. “She’s really good about when it comes to game time or practice time being really serious and getting the job done. I think a lot of people see her example and kind of live by what she shows.”

Priebe has her coaches’ and teammates’ votes and could use yours. To vote for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, visit http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote/softball_2011/

–RamblinWreck.com–

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