Lawrie Fights Through Heavy Heart To Lead UW Past UCLA

April 5, 2010

By Christian Caple
The UW Daily

The numbers will not tell you how impressive this performance was, how hard Danielle Lawrie had to work on Saturday to will her team to a double-header sweep over UCLA.

And so you won't get the whole story looking at Washington's 3-1 win in the first game, nor the Huskies' 7-2 victory in the nightcap. Not by looking at Lawrie's 9 1/3 scoreless innings, nor her 15 strikeouts against the No. 5 team in the country, nor the fact that she allowed just three hits against one of the more potent offenses around.

The tears she had to brush away in the fourth inning of game one, though, will give you an idea of just how difficult this opening Pac-10 weekend was for the tough-as-nails reigning National Player of the Year.

Lawrie found out during warm-ups on Saturday that her grandmother had fallen seriously ill the night before. She'd been excited for her grandma to watch her play on Thursday, even posting news of her visit to Seattle on her Twitter page prior to that night's game.

But she took the circle with a heavy heart on Saturday after hearing the news, and after beginning that day's first game in the fourth inning -- the game had been suspended at that point the night before due to rain -- Lawrie appeared too overcome with emotion to continue.

Her teammates made sure she did.

'I just kind of said, `keep going, DL,'' UW shortstop and Lawrie's good friend Jenn Salling said. 'I think she had a little bit of a breakdown, but the way Danielle is, she's never going to let down. If she falls -- not that she ever falls -- but if she does, she gets right back up.'

So Lawrie -- who understandably declined to comment afterward -- gathered herself after allowing a double and a walk to start the inning, retired the next nine batters in a row and closed out UW's first Pac-10 win of the season without allowing another hit.

'I just told the team before the game started that they've got to have her back, and they've got to get with her mentally, emotionally and all that stuff and be with her,' head coach Heather Tarr said. 'They did a good job trying to get her back on track.'

And that is perhaps the most powerful message that Lawrie has sent in this season that has already seen her throw two perfect games: Just when you think she can't get any better, that there is nothing left for her to accomplish, she pitches all day through a storm of emotion that would cripple even the toughest of competitors.

Given every reasonable excuse to give up, Lawrie -- with encouragement from Salling to 'do it for grandma' -- buckled down instead.

'Nobody can do that except her,' Salling said. 'I honestly believe that. I said before the game, if anyone can deal with it, it's Danielle.'

The second game seemed almost a formality by then. Lawrie was again dominant, exiting with one out in the sixth inning after allowing just two hits and striking out eight to earn her 20th win of the season.

And her offense jumped on UCLA starter Donna Kerr early, Salling hitting a leadoff double before coming around to score on a fielding error. Niki Williams later doubled to plate Lawrie, who reached on a fielder's choice, and the rout was on. A four-run fifth inning sealed it.

'I think [Kerr] kept trying to hit her spots, and we stayed disciplined,' Tarr said. 'And she got a little bit behind in the count sometimes, and we tried to take advantage of it.'

Leading 7-0 in the top of the sixth, Tarr went out and got Lawrie, replacing her with Baily Harris just to 'give Danielle a seat, put her on ice and let her marinate for a while,' Tarr said.

Nobody will argue that she didn't deserve it.

'That's hard to deal with,' Salling said. 'You find out that stuff about your grandmother, and you're playing the No. 4 team in the country, and you're the ace pitcher. My hat goes off to Danielle, and my heart goes out to her, too, because she played her heart out today.'

Even though it seemed to be breaking.

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