Is Lawrie Greatest Husky Athlete Ever?
May 20, 2010
By Gregg Bell, Associated Press
SEATTLE - The most accomplished athlete to wear a Washington Huskies uniform might not be hulking defensive tackle Steve Emtman nor hook-shooting center Bob Houbregs.
Nope, it just might be the pitcher with the pink, speckled band pulling back her dark hair and the pink metallic water bottle with "LOVE" stenciled in white on it.
Danielle Lawrie's resume is tough to beat.
In 2009, she became the first softball player to be named national player of the year in the same season her team won a national championship. In a couple weeks, she is expected to make it two straight player of the year awards. No Husky in any sport has done that.
And Friday she'll lead Pac-10 champion Washington (46-5), the nation's top-ranked team, into the NCAA tournament, where the Huskies will begin defense of their title starting with a regional matchup at home against North Dakota State (33-23).
As for Lawrie, she's just happy the Huskies won't be on the road for the entire tournament like last year.
"The worst thing was it was tough to find a place to get our hair done and stuff," she said.
The only Washington team to win consecutive NCAA titles is the women's crew in 1997-98. Huskies men's crew, not sanctioned by the NCAA, has won consecutive national titles four times since 1923-24.
With Lawrie pitching every inning of every game, and providing power hitting at the plate, the Huskies are favored to make it two straight championships.
"I've never had the luxury to coach an athlete like Danielle," Huskies coach Heather Tarr said.
Lawrie, a 23-year-old from Langley, British Columbia, was a two-time Canadian provincial champion in basketball who wanted to be a Husky since she attended a softball game as a seventh grader.
"This was my calling," she said.
She has been nearly unhittable in answering that call, unfurling 71-mph zingers from the pitching circle about 40 feet from home plate - the baseball equivalent of about 97 mph from a regulation mound.
She is 35-2 with a 0.99 ERA, 407 strikeouts and 33 walks in 247.1 innings. She has thrown four no-hitters this year - including three perfect games. She is second in the nation with 20 shutouts, one shy of her own single-season school record.
She even leads Washington with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. The Pac-10 pitcher of the year for two years running was the league's player of the week a record 10 times this season and 18 times in her career.
So on the eve of the senior's final college games, it's time to ask: Is Lawrie the most accomplished Husky athlete ever?
"You can certainly say that. I don't think there's been a player who has dominated a sport more than she has," said Dave Torrell, the curator for the university's sports Hall of Fame.
Some argue the best Husky ever has to be a football player at a school famous for coach Don James and 14 Rose Bowls - a player such as dazzling runner Hugh McElhenny, who is in both the pro and college football Halls of Fame. Or three-time volleyball All-American Courtney Thompson. Or even current Huskies golfer Nick Taylor, who is the nation's top-ranked amateur.
But Torrell notes that Taylor can't carry the entire Huskies golf team to the national title the way Lawrie has already carried Huskies softball to one.
Lawrie threw 251 pitches and struck out 24 in a 15-inning, complete-game win at Massachusetts at the start of last year's NCAA tournament. That night is already legendary in her sport.
Lawrie laughed nervously when told many think she's the best Husky ever.
"It's humbling," she said. "But it's not really something right now that's the focus."
Her father Russ, a former rugby player, molded an athletic family that includes her younger brother, Brett, who the 16th overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.
She also credits the selflessness of Rick Sullivan. Years ago, the slow-pitch softball coach from White Rock, B.C., taught a teenaged basketballer in the land of hockey how to zip a softball. She said he asked for nothing in return - no money, no credit. Sullivan will be in the stands with her family this weekend watching what he molded.
And Lawrie credits a "humbling" year when she left school to join Canada's Olympic team for the 2008 Beijing Games. Lawrie sat on the bench and watched as coach Lori Sippel, who has since left Canada's national team to be Nebraska's associate head coach, pitched veteran Lauren Bay instead. Canada didn't medal.
That's when Lawrie's learned how special her relationship was with Tarr.
"That Olympic year was one of the best-slash-worst years of my life," she said. "I gave everything that I could give to a team, and at the same time I did not get back the 100 percent from the coach that I felt I should have gotten. I was just so spoiled here by how Coach Tarr connected with me."
After this NCAA tournament, Lawrie will join tours and exhibition games with other top college players. She will return to the UW this fall to finish her sociology degree and help coach the Huskies as the most decorated graduate assistant the school has ever had.
Does she want to put her sociology degree to use right away?
"Uh, not really," she said, chuckling and flashing a huge smile that stretched almost to her pink hair band.
This softball dream is much more rewarding right now.