April 20, 2006
By Jonathan Price
The 2005 World Cup is a tournament that encompasses the best softball teams in the world. It is a place where the world's best players get a chance to shine and represent their home countries. While most team's elite players are usually experienced collegiate athletes, for Team Canada this competition was a coming out party for a soon-to-be freshman at the University of Washington.
Danielle Lawrie had never even thrown a pitch at the collegiate level when she stepped in for Team Canada in an effort to knock off the three-time defending Olympic Champions, a feat that no Canadian team had ever done before. With no concern for her country's past experiences versus the Americans, Lawrie came into the game surprisingly relaxed as if she were a hardened veteran. She pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and handed Team USA it's first international loss since 2002.
'It was a good experience,' said Lawrie. 'We were pretty motivated going into it. We aren't expected to win those sort of games because we had never beaten Team USA. Our whole team was really into it and USA hadn't seen me before. It was a great experience and it taught me a lot that I could take with me to Washington.'
Competing on the world's stage was about more than just beating Team USA however, it was a chance for Lawrie to get a feel for what the competition was going to be like when she stepped up to play in the nation's best softball conference; the Pacific-10.
'Most of the players on the U.S. team play or have played on Pac-10 teams,' says Lawrie. 'It gives you a valid idea that you shouldn't be scared to face anybody if you have faced the best in the world. There is no way that I should ever be scared to face any batters, so that game gave me confidence.'
Stepping into her inaugural season as a Husky, expectations were high for this young Canadian star as Lawrie became the only freshman named to the pre-season Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List. While Lawrie maintained her focus to be fearless in the circle, it would be the batters that were afraid of Lawrie. Her first start as a Washington Husky would not be an easy one, facing No.12 Oklahoma, a Big-12 powerhouse. Lawrie held the Sooners scoreless for the first four innings, while her offense rallied to score 12 runs to all but close out the game for the Huskies. She ended the game with seven strikeouts in just five innings of work, en route to a 12-4 Husky victory.
It didn't end there for Lawrie, as she would continue her success as the season progressed to set a pace for a record-breaking season. She threw the schools third ever perfect game against Utah Valley State on February 26 at the Husky Classic. Lawrie struck out 15 batters (at one point 14 consecutively) and won by a score of 8-0 through only six innings. Against Pac-10 rival and fifth-ranked Stanford Lawrie struck out 12 on her way to an 8-0 victory. She became the fastest pitcher in school history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season and is currently only nine away from ranking fifth on the Washington single season list with over a month left in the season. Lawrie also earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week on April 4, a high honor for the Husky's first ever Canadian player. Even with all of these personal accomplishments, Lawrie upholds a team mentality.
'I can't go out there thinking about myself,' said Lawrie. 'I have to go out there thinking that I need to do the best that I can to help my team be successful. It's a team game and you have to go out there and do whatever you can as a team to win. I try to keep my mind on those types of things rather than getting distracted by my personal accomplishments.'
Combined with fellow Husky pitcher Caitlin Noble, the Washington pitching duo is one of the best in the Pac-10. The pair has posted the league's lowest earned run average (1.37) and second-most strikeouts (78) in seven conference games. They are also tied for second in the Pac-10 for least number of earned runs (11) and home runs (three) in conference play.
'I knew coming in that Caitlin was a good pitcher,' says Lawrie. 'It has been really good to be able to talk with her about pitching and we have been there for each other all year. We have a good trust level and it's nice to know that if you need the relief help that it is there for you. We just have to keep doing what we are doing and the wins will come.'
If her success continues, Washington aims to return to the College World Series for the third time in the last four years. After falling one game short of the championship tournament in 2005, Lawrie knows she needs to help her team finish strong in Pac-10 play to ride momentum into the postseason.
'We have set our goals as high as we can, to win a national championship,' said Lawrie. 'We need to finish strong in the Pac-10's because there are a lot of good teams in our conference. If we put our best play forward and play like we know we can, we have a good chance of taking this team deep into the postseason.'