Baker named 2023 Deb Thompson Award recipient

Published 9:24 am Friday, May 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

GREENVILLE, SC – The NCCAA announces Lauren Baker of Columbia International University (CIU) as the 2023 recipient of the Deb Thompson Award for Softball.

Bertie County native Lauren Baker is shown here at-bat during the 2022 collegiate softball season. File Photo

Baker, a native of Bertie County and a 2018 graduate of Lawrence Academy, is a middle infielder for the Rams. She has a unique story that has inspired not only her teammates and coaches, but many others.

Born legally blind in her left eye and enduring three surgeries immediately after birth, Baker was told she would never be able to play sports. Later in life she had a near drowning experience while being attacked by a dog that resulted in five plastic surgeries.

The series of challenging health issues continued when she learned of a rare heart condition that resulted in open heart surgery, followed by ACL surgery and multiple other health conditions.

Despite all of this, Baker’s stats speak for themselves and tell the story of her perseverance through adversity. This season she led CIU with a .402 batting average, 35 (to include three homeruns and five doubles), nine stolen bases, and a team low in strikeouts (four during the season). A starter at shortstop or second base, Baker boasts a .809 fielding percentage for the Rams.

In 2022, after leading her team to a runner-up finish at the NCCAA Softball World Series, Baker was named to the All-Tournament team.

Studying sports management, the senior holds a 3.93 GPA, and graduated Summa Cum Laude on May 6 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Management with a concentration in Business.

She has been awarded with Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) All-Academic team, NCCAA Scholar-Athlete, Dean’s List, and other various academic honors.

Baker is a natural relationship builder and has built an excellent bridge for the team with campus faculty, staff, and local ministry leaders. She has served as one of the team’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle leaders and is very involved in FCA. This summer, she plans to travel on a summer ministry tour with Athletes is Action.

CIU head coach Sara Allen had this to say about Baker: “Despite actively dealing with challenging health issues, Lauren has earned her starting position and has led our team competitively, spiritually, and culturally. She knows the Lord on a deep and personal level as He has met and ministered to her in some of her darkest moments. She truly understands what it means to live and compete for the Lord’s glory and works hard to bring others along with her in that pursuit.”

When asked how she felt about receiving national recognition with such prestigious awards, Barker replied, “It is an honor and I thank God, my family, and my friends for always believing in me. Being the national recipient of the Deb Thompson award is one of the most prestigious awards a Christian athlete can receive and then to be given an invitation to participate in the Athletes in Action and know you are being trained and equipped to show your love for Christ to other athletes and families is a mission field often one may dream about. I thank God for these opportunities.”

Baker is no stranger to earning the recognition of her peers. Her accolades include National Honor Society, Lawrence Academy Female Athlete of the Year for 2017 & 2018 (the youngest athlete in school history to receive this award), Lawrence softball MVP (2015-2018), Lawrence basketball MVP (2017), All-State Softball and Basketball Team (2017), and Tarheel Independent Conference Player of the Year in softball (2016-2018).

This latest award is named in honor of Deb Thompson, who became the head coach at Spring Arbor University in 1987 and built a legacy through impacting players for Christ, while creating a winning culture on and off the field. She was awarded the NFCA Regional Coach of the Year on four occasions, received numerous NCCAA district/regional awards, and was the NCCAA Coach of the Year in 2005 when her Cougars captured the NCCAA National Title. Deb has over 800 career wins and counting, and was inducted into the Spring Arbor University Hall of Fame in 2002. She has and continues to serve selflessly while nurturing the student-athletes who have had the benefit of calling her coach. The NCCAA is proud to present this award in recognition of Deb Thompson’s legacy of service.