Being a freshman at a new school can be hard enough. For Lauren Lupinetti, it meant moving across the country from Long Beach, California to Queens, New York, adjusting to the borough’s colder climate, and finding her role on a new softball team. After all that, she never thought it would include a position change as well.

The coaches saw Lupinetti, a natural corner infielder, catching sophomore pitcher Lisa Geer before the season.

“They were like ‘Oh, we need a catcher,'” Lupinetti said. “They said I had a chance of starting, but I was like ‘there is no way,’ because I didn’t have a lot of experience.”

Lupinetti had never caught during a competitive game before. Even so, she began the season trading time at first base and behind the plate with junior Loren Anguiano.

But by mid-March, with the pitchers feeling comfortable with her and a little help from her blistering bat, Lupinetti began to become the team’s everyday backstop. She was the starting catcher in 27 of the team’s 42 games this season.

“She’s gotten more comfortable throwing down and trying to pick runners off,” coach Debbie DeJong said. “I think at this point you can’t even tell she’s not a catcher by trade.”

What was never in doubt though, was the fact that Lupinetti was a polished hitter.

“I knew if Loop worked hard and saw the ball, she’d hit it,” DeJong said.

She had every reason to believe that.

Lupinetti batted .535 with seven homers in her senior season at Lakewood High School. So far this year, she is hitting .390, with eight home runs, 37 RBIs and a .627 slugging percentage. She leads St. John’s (22-20, 5-9) in all four of these categories, had a 13 game hitting streak and is the team’s clean-up hitter.

“I just take it as hitting in the spot,” Lupinetti said. “I just try to hit the same no matter where I am going to hit.”

It was Lupinetti’s homer against then No. 17 Nebraska on March 10 that really helped to boost her confidence at the plate.

The single-season record for home runs is 13, ironically set in 2004 by Christina Tucker, the team’s freshman catcher.

“The Nebraska game I went in a little timid, but after I hit a home run, I was just really comfortable,” she said. “That’s why I started getting really comfortable.”

While the move to behind the plate hasn’t seemed to affect Lupinetti’s game, the change has not made it any easier. Before switching to a different glove, she had to battle through a jammed thumb from catching curveballs and screwballs. It is her mental toughness that helped her deal with the injury.

“We heard a lot about her,” senior Megan Oliver said. “So we were expecting a really good athlete, but I still think seeing her play now, she still impresses me to this day even though I know the potential she has.”

Lupinetti is settled into her new team, her new home and her new position. She can continue to concentrate on her consistent production behind and at the plate, while securing a Big East tournament berth for St. John’s.

“She can be behind in the count and I don’t think anyone ever really worries that she is going to pull through,” Oliver said. “She’s a clutch hitter.”