College Spotlight: Laken Chambers delivers breakout sophomore season at UNG
In two years playing for the University of North Georgia, Laken Chambers has done a little bit of everything, from hitting to pitching. While blending the roles in her 2018 freshman season, her 2019 sophomore year has been all about making an impact in the circle.
The Union County class of 2017 product has been very good to say the least this season, going 5-3 overall with a 1.11 ERA. Chambers has struck out 27 hitters across 50-plus innings, and has a 0.96 WHIP (Walk & Hits per Inning Pitched).
Chambers’ success in 2019 isn’t just a flash in the pan. She is seeing the fruits of her labor after aiming to perfect her craft.
“After last season, I went home for the summer with the plan to really work and get better because freshman year showed me I had a lot to work on,” says Chambers. “Currently I feel more comfortable and more confident and just trusting my stuff has helped with the metal side of pitching. I just try to work on staying focused, trusting my abilities, and not let the mental side of softball get the best of me because I am my own worst enemy.”
Last season, Chambers had a larger impact batting, hitting .667 in very limited action (8-for-12), tallying 5 RBI, 3 doubles, and scoring 3 runs and adding a stolen base. She also went 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 26.2 innings pitched last year.
This year though, her main focus has been in the circle. She’s only batted a few times, going 0-for-2 with a walk. Chambers misses hitting, too, but is just staying in the moment for the Peachbelt Champion and powerhouse Nighthawks.
“I miss hitting, but right now something just isn’t clicking with me hitting off of live pitching,” says Chambers. “But that’s fine because I am happy to play whatever role I need to for my team to be successful.”
And the team is doing just that, going 42-11 overall and heading into the NCAA Division-II Southeast Regional, which opens on Thursday, May 9. UNG is used to winning, and won the 2015 National Championship, as well as winning 51 straight during 2009 and 2010, earning two other titles before another in 2011. UNG made it to the Championship again last year before falling, but went 62-4 a year ago with Chambers on the squad.
“I think winning is just part of a tradition here, and I am proud to be a part of a championship program,” says Chambers. “Every team that comes through is held to high expectations and we are always excited to keep that tradition alive by competing in postseason play. As far as pressure goes, we as a team are confident that we can compete with the best teams in the nation, and we welcome the challenge because it makes us better. We hope to take it further this year and win another natty.”
Chambers is certainly no stranger to competitive play and postseason atmosphere. It’s all she’s ever known. At Union County, she helped guide the Lady Panthers to 88 wins over four seasons (2013-16), making state all four years, including a pair of Sweet 16 runs and another Elite 8 run, which included a #1 state ranking.
“I think it is similar at Union, or at least when I was there, because making it to the playoffs was just something we always did, kind of the the norm,” says Chambers. “It’s cool that I get take that experience and compare it to a program like UNG.”
Chambers left Union County as one of the top two-way players in school history. Her career batting average of .360 consists of 14 homeruns and 117 RBI. In the circle, she went 69-31 with a 1.50 ERA and 515 strikeouts and four saves. She owns the single-season and career RBI mark at Union. A two-time BLITZ Player of the Year and three-time Player of the Week, Chambers is also a BLITZ Hall of Famer.
Feature Photo by UNG Athletics