Blake In Control From Behind Plate
April 17, 2009
By Christian Caple
It's no secret that the Washington softball team's resurgence as a national powerhouse this season is largely due to opposing batters who have trouble hitting Danielle Lawrie's pitches.
But what's not as well known is exactly how much it has to do with the person catching them.
That would be the UW's senior catcher, Alicia Blake, who came to Washington the same year as Lawrie and has caught nearly all of her games. Blake will likely make her 183rd start behind the dish today when the Huskies travel to Eugene to face Oregon.
Blake, who played the first two years of her career as Alicia Matthews before her December 2007 marriage, has been a staple in the UW lineup as a four-year starter. She led the Huskies with a .345 batting average last season and was second-team All Pac-10.
What goes unnoticed, though, is the command she has over a game when she's behind the plate. It's rare for softball catchers to call each pitch on their own -- most rely on instructions from the coaches in the dugout -- but Blake calls every single pitch of every single one of Lawrie's games, making her one of the only catchers in the conference to have that kind of rapport with her staff ace.
'It was something that I've always done,' Blake said. 'So to me, it wasn't that hard. I'm definitely an observer, both when I'm playing and when I'm not. I think that had a lot to do with it.'
Lawrie said she rarely shakes Blake off -- something head coach Heather Tarr said used to happen a lot more when the two were younger -- and gives Blake just as much credit as herself for a solid outing. And it's not just Blake's ability to frame pitches and manage a game that keeps Lawrie from wavering in the circle.
During the UW's 1-0 win over Florida earlier this season, for example, Blake lightened the mood during an intense 11-inning pitcher's duel by good-naturedly poking fun at Husky assistant coach Lance Glasoe, who had come out of the dugout a couple of steps to ask what Lawrie's plan was for the current batter.
Like Glasoe, Blake raised her arms, Lawrie said, and asked the same question.
Lawrie couldn't help by laugh.
'She's funny, man,' Lawrie said. 'She makes me laugh. She'll come out there and say random stuff to me. She has a way of just making the situation not as stressful as it actually is.'
Blake deflects any credit that Lawrie wants to give her -- which is a lot. Lawrie slips Blake into almost every conversation about her achievements on the mound.
Tarr probably puts it best.
'They both have to be on the same page,' she said. 'You look back at old game film, and you see Danielle doing a lot of shaking off. That disrupts rhythm, and ultimately shows a lack of trust. When they're on the same page, things tend to go very well.'
Said Blake: 'I think that's great that [Lawrie] does give me some sort of credit. But most of it is her. She's throwing the pitches.'
Lawrie tells it differently.
'She's calling the pitches,' Lawrie said. 'I'm just hitting the spot.'