Fauquier's leadoff hitter, senior center fielder Josh Campbell, would never consider turning around and batting left-handed to shorten the distance from the batter's box to first base.

He also would not consider that he has to score each time he is on base because his might be the only run of the game, and he would not think of radically overhauling his approach to hitting midway through a successful high school career.

But his counterpart on Park View's softball team, senior second baseman Kristen Miller, has done all of the above during three varsity seasons.

Although both are arguably the area's best leadoff hitters in their sports, their approaches vary greatly. Nevertheless, both have the three most important abilities of a successful leadoff hitter -- a knack for putting the ball in play, a good eye at the plate and speed on the bases.

Last season, Campbell batted .410, with 4 triples, 15 RBI, 16 steals and 19 runs scored. He hit safely in the first 18 games of the season. Miller batted .346, struck out only seven times in 91 appearances, scored 16 runs and stole a team-high six bases.

"Often times, [leading off] is more critical [in softball] because if she gets on base, it can change the whole complexion of the game, especially when you consider all the 1-0 games we play," said Park View Coach Beth Walker, noting that base runners are much less frequent in softball than baseball.

"There have been many games in the last few years where Kristen has gotten on base and won a game for us because of that."

Despite doing everything else right-handed, Miller, at the suggestion of her travel team coach, began batting left-handed as a freshman. She said the move would take advantage of her speed by putting her a couple of feet closer to first base while in the batter's box.

Because the base paths are shorter in softball than baseball, sometimes all Miller had to do was simply hit -- or even bunt -- the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield. Her speed took her safely to first base ahead of the throw.

As Miller grew stronger last year, however, she returned to the right side of the plate. "She was way too predictable," Walker said, and opposing outfielders positioned themselves in spots to which they did not think Miller could drive the ball.

"I didn't have the power to hit left-handed," Miller said. "But those dinky hits to shortstop were good enough to get me on base a lot."

Miller started lifting weights last year. She credits that for her new power, which she displayed in the AA championship game. Her 12th-inning single to center field drove in the lone run in Park View's 1-0 victory over Broad Run.

"The first two years, all she did was bunt, and that was okay because she got on base so many times with her speed," said Veronica Skinner, Park View's senior shortstop. "The funny thing was that last year she hit the crud out of the ball."

Campbell's approach has never gone through such a reinvention but rather a perpetual refinement of his ability to judge the strike zone, a variety of pitches and a pitcher's delivery while on base.

"He puts the bat on the ball most of the time," Fauquier Coach Sam Johnson said. "If he puts the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield, you'd better not bobble it or else he's going to beat it out. If he gets on base, the chances of him stealing one or two bases is not out the possibility because he's learning everyday how to read pitchers.

"He's got so much confidence in his own abilities, and that rubs off on other guys. That's the kind of guy you want starting off the game for you."

Even though a pitcher can more often single-handedly control a softball game, a chief responsibility of a leadoff hitter in baseball is reporting back to teammates on the opposing pitcher.

"It's a lot of starting the game off," Campbell said. "Nobody has seen the pitcher. They don't know if he has a good curveball or how hard he throws. Hitting leadoff, you don't know the timing of the pitcher.

"You come back [to the dugout], and they're all asking you how hard he throws and compare him to someone they faced. It helps out all your teammates. It's very critical for them to know what he throws and what you can expect"

Senior David Chapman recalled the Falcons' 11-8 victory over Handley early last season. He said the Falcons were intimidated by the Judges' deep pitching staff until Campbell led off the game with an infield hit.

"He can beat it out and give everyone the confidence that some guy isn't all that he's cracked up to be," Chapman said.

In either sport, however, the leadoff hitter can use speed to turn a single or walk into a run much more quickly

"He can make things happen with his speed," Johnson said. "We put pressure on defense, and you do that with speed. If he can do that, especially this year because nobody has had a lot of time to practice, it could lead to some easier runs. If we get him on base, we feel like we have a good chance of getting him across."

Skinner, who batted fifth in the Patriots' lineup last season, said, "It's so important. There's no outs [and if the leadoff hitter gets on], the next person bunts you over. And then, if the next person drives it to the outfield, that's a run."

Often, it's the only one Park View needs.

Kristen Miller, leadoff hitter for the Park View softball team, takes a practice swing."It helps out all your teammates," Fauquier's Josh Campbell says of leading off and gauging the opposing pitcher. "It's very critical for them to know what he throws and what you can expect."Josh Campbell cheers on his Fauquier teammates.Kristen Miller tags out the Vikings' Anne Christopher.