Danielle Lawrie Pitches UW To Super Regional

May 22, 2009

The Associated Press

Tears were all that was left of Danielle Lawrie.

After 15 innings, 251 pitches, more than five hours on the field and 24 strikeouts - every one needed with the season at stake - Washington's pitching ace was tapped. Her arm ached and her brain was in a fog.

When her final strikeout was recorded at 1:18 a.m. Monday to cap Washington's 6-1 win over Massachusetts and a trip to the NCAA super regional, Lawrie simply let the tears flow.

'All I could do is just stand there, just, `Oh God, we're finally finished.' .... It was a mentally, mentally draining game,' Lawrie said by phone earlier this week from Massachusetts. 'When we were done, and emotions were running high, I just started crying. I was just so thankful.'

After that marathon win, Lawrie (35-7) and the Huskies - the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament - head to Atlanta for this weekend's best-of-three super regional against Georgia Tech.

And Lawrie, who was named one of three finalists for national player of the year Wednesday, will be back on the mound ready to throw however many pitches are needed to help Washington get back to the Women's College World Series.

Pitching again at the WCWS has remained a goal for Lawrie ever since the Huskies were eliminated in the national semifinals by Arizona in 2007. But last season, her aspirations to help Washington to its first national title were shoved aside by a calling to pitch for her native Canada at the Olympics.

'I'm never going to turn down that opportunity to go play with the national team and play for my country,' said Lawrie, a native of Langley, B.C.

She pitched three games in the Olympics as Canada mostly used Lauren Bay-Regula, the sister of Boston slugger Jason Bay. But Lawrie picked up the victory in a 9-2 win over the Netherlands and threw 12 innings in Beijing.

Lawrie was frustrated by Canada's loss to Australia in the semifinals, which left the team out of the medals, but that motivated her coming back to Washington, where she went 31-13 in 2007.

'The 2007 season really showed her how good she was and how good she could be,' Washington coach Heather Tarr said. 'This year she's got people on her back. She's like, `Come on, let's go, I got you. Just get me some runs.' '

Another benefit of Lawrie's time pitching for Canada was an increased focus on her conditioning and mental preparation, both of which were challenged last weekend.

Washington needed one win over UMass to advance to the super regional, but lost the first game, 5-1. Lawrie threw 144 pitches in the loss, giving up five earned runs and striking out eight. There wasn't much time to rest, with the deciding game starting only 30 minutes later.

The Huskies staked Lawrie to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but UMass slugger Samantha Salato hit her 19th homer of the season to tie it in the fourth inning. From there, Lawrie and UMass ace Brandice Balschmiter combined to shut down each other's offense for the next 10 innings, with help from some great defense.

Finally, around 1 a.m., Washington got to Balschmiter. Lawrie even helped herself out with a two-run single in the top of the 15th, then got a key double play in the bottom of the inning. She capped off her performance with her school-record 24th strikeout.

She finished four strikeouts shy of the NCAA record, but became the third pitcher in Pacific-10 Conference history and 12th individual pitcher in NCAA history to record at least 24 strikeouts in a game. By the end, Lawrie was willing her body to throw pitches, knowing that just using her arm wouldn't be enough.

'It was probably one of the most mentally draining games I've ever been in. I wasn't wasting any energy, I just wanted to get the ball back and go,' Lawrie said. 'You're playing for so long you don't want to waste any unnecessary energy.'

Fortunately, the turnaround to the super regional isn't immediate. The Huskies traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday and don't face Georgia Tech until Saturday.

'She understands the big picture. ... You're never going to get a chance again in your life to work this hard with a group of people,' Tarr said. 'Sometimes it takes until your senior year to understand that. The fact she gets that now in her junior year, it's big for us.'

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