Two years ago at the request of Dublin Coffman High School softball coach Kevin Finan, junior Rachel DeRosa selflessly agreed to switch defensive positions and change the way she bats.

Two years ago at the request of Dublin Coffman High School softball coach Kevin Finan, junior Rachel DeRosa selflessly agreed to switch defensive positions and change the way she bats.

After playing shortstop and batting right-handed on junior varsity as a freshman, DeRosa began playing left field and hitting with a left-handed slap style. She initially struggled with the transition, especially at the plate.

In her second start in left field on varsity last year, DeRosa dropped a routine fly ball in a 5-3 loss to Pickerington North and was benched the following game. She bounced back from that mistake to play solid defense the rest of the season, but she consistently struggled at the plate, finishing with a .152 batting average.

"Hitting left-handed was really awkward for me at first," DeRosa said. "I got so frustrated at one point last year that I said, 'Why can't I hit right-handed again?' But coach Finan and my dad told me to stick with hitting left-handed. Our team needed a left-handed slapper, and this about my team, not me, so I listened to them."

DeRosa continued to work on her swing during the offseason, taking private lessons from hitting coach Jeff Allen and playing for the Central Ohio Ice travel team.

DeRosa's persistence is paying dividends this season, as she has moved up from the No. 9 spot in the lineup to leadoff. Through 18 games, she was batting .338 with eight RBI, a team-high 13 runs scored and seven stolen bases on seven attempts.

She also has earned the starting spot in center field, where she had a perfect fielding percentage with 13 putouts.

"I'm really proud of her because she really struggled at first, but she never gave up and now she's doing an outstanding job both offensively and defensively," Finan said. "She's awfully fast and she's our spark plug who gets things going. She's a talented defensive player, too. She has the wheels to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and she has a nice arm and a good glove."

When DeRosa struggled with the transition, she looked to her older brother, Spencer, for inspiration.

At the age of 16, Spencer DeRosa had ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the large intestine. The inflammation affects the inner lining of the colon, causing small sores or ulcers.

DeRosa broke down in tears as she talked about her brother's three-year road to recovery.

"My brother is my hero because he's overcome so much," she said. "I felt so bad for him when he got sick because he enjoyed bodybuilding and he couldn't weight lift anymore. He didn't have a chance to be a teenager. He had to grow up so fast, but he's doing great now."

DeRosa is hoping she can help lead the Shamrocks to their first Division I district title before she graduates, but she doesn't plan on trying to play softball in college. After volunteering her time working with students with special needs the past five years, she is planning on pursuing a career as a physical therapist who helps children with special needs.

"I'm kind of a nerd," said DeRosa, who has a 3.8 cumulative grade-point average and is a member of the national honor society. "I love softball, but I've decided I want to focus on my academics first."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Coffman softball team:

*April 12 - Lost to Hilliard Darby 4-3

*April 14 - Defeated Hilliard Davidson 7-0

April 17 - Def. Westerville Central 3-2. Linda Cardozo pitched a four-hitter; def. New Albany 8-5

*April 19 - Lost to Upper Arlington 9-3

*April 21 - Lost to Central Crossing 9-2

*April 22 - Def. Worthington Kilbourne 8-4

*Last Friday - Lost to Westland 8-0

*Last Tuesday - Played Thomas Worthington

*Last Wednesday - Played Hilliard Darby

*Friday - Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

*Monday - At Worthington Kilbourne

*Wednesday - Home vs. Upper Arlington

Of note: The Shamrocks were 8-10 overall and 3-6 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game