Rachel brings a world of experience to the Spirit

Rachel Lack hopes her Aussie Spirit team will bounce back at the Japan Cup. Pictures courtesy of Sam Donkin Photography

Rachel brings a world of experience to the Spirit


For someone who has just turned 22, Rachel Lack sure has seen a lot of the world.

Softball has already taken the talented utility player to Europe, North America and Japan, and she is about to chalk up some more frequent flyer points when she gets on a flight to Tokyo next week to represent the Aussie Spirit at the Japan Cup.

Rachel LackLack recently returned home to Sydney after two years studying and playing softball for the the University of Hawaii. Even before landing in Hawaii, she was already an experienced international player, having represented Australia at Under 19 level in Canada in 2013 and in the Spirit team that won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Series in the Netherlands, where she hit a grand slam.

But her time in Hawaii taught her more about softball and about herself than she had thought possible.

“It was eye-opening. It definitely gave me a bigger perspective on the sport,” she says.

“The difference between how we play in Australia and how the Americans play, it was a real learning curve. Just the amount of training, the facilities, the fields, the batting cages … I loved it, and I learned a lot about myself.”

In the 2016 season Lack led the UH team with six home runs and had the highest batting average (.750) when hitting with bases loaded. Her 23 RBIs tied for the team’s best, and she played as a catcher and outfielder.

Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow believes Lack’s experience in Hawaii will help the team at the Japan Cup and beyond.

“Rachel was in the last World Championship team and has just completed her second year at college. Those experiences will be helpful for her and the team as a whole,” Barlow says.

“A very powerful hitter who plays multiple positions and has a strong arm, she is someone who has the potential to be in this team for a long time. She’s a key player for this program now and moving forward.”

Having played in Japan before, Lack knows what to expect and won’t be put off by the expected big crowds and volume of noise around the field.

“The stadiums are big and it blows me away how much support they have, the crowds they get compared with what we get in Australia,” she says.Rachel Lack

“Sometimes it can be distracting, but it’s something you have to work with, being able to focus when you need to focus. You can soak it up before the game or when someone else is batting, but when it’s your turn you have to shut it out.”

Although she has spent time behind the plate and played a bit of third base, Lack believes the outfield is where she performs best. “I definitely feel a lot more comfortable in the outfield, and I think that’s where I’ll probably stay in the Australian team,” she says.

“In centre field or left field, I like being out there and getting a different perspective on the game compared with catcher or third base. People might not think so, but you can see a lot more of the game from the outfield than you can from behind the plate.”

Having been a part of the Spirit’s recent disappointing World Championship campaign, Lack believes the team will benefit from the experience.

“We went through some ups and downs in that tournament and I felt like we found a lot of character.

“We really took it to the US. It was the best I have performed with the team since I’ve been in it.

“We just need to work harder on trying to convert runs. Our defence was gold worthy, but we need to fine tune our hitting so we can convert more runs and not be in such tight circumstances all the time.”

After the Japan Cup, Lack will return to her Sydney home and continue her studies at Macquarie University.

Rachel LackIn the longer term, she has her sights set on a professional career in the USA — but not yet. “Not at the present time, because I want to finish uni, get a degree under my belt and explore a bit around the world before I get into the professional side of it.”

And, like all elite softball players, she is excited about the prospect of playing in the 2020 Olympic Games. “Very much so. It would mean anything and everything.

“It’s always been my dream to represent Australia at the Olympics, and I was really stoked just like everyone else when we found out softball was back in.”

In Takasaki at the Japan Cup or wherever else she plays, Lack will not take the field without her lucky charm, a four-leaf clover necklace she was given on her 18th birthday.  “I never play a game without it, never go a day without wearing it. It’s become lucky for me over the last couple of years.”

 

The Aussie Spirit team for the Japan Cup

Janice Blackman, Qld Kaia Parnaby, NSW Erin Thras, Qld
Amelia Cudicio, NSW Sam Poole, NSW Taylah Tsitsikronis, NSW
Jemma Freegard, WA Stacey Porter, NSW Clare Warwick, ACT
Sandra Holden, Qld Belinda White, SA
Rachel Lack, NSW Tara Speakman, Qld
Stacey McManus, NSW Gabrielle Plain, NSW