Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawrence Got Game after Dad Made It One; West Nassau Pitcher Didn't Always like Softball, and Then She Became a Force

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawrence Got Game after Dad Made It One; West Nassau Pitcher Didn't Always like Softball, and Then She Became a Force

Article excerpt

Byline: JASON SCHNEIDER, The Times-Union

As a little girl, Katie Lawrence didn't care much for softball or sports in general.

Her father, Robert, characterized her as a "girly-girl," though he remembers even as a young child a competitive streak that she exhibited in card and board games.

But Robert wanted his daughter and her younger brother, John, to play on the T-ball team he was coaching. And Katie didn't show any interest until her dad made a game out of it.

"She really didn't want to do it," Robert said, "but I turned it into a contest to see who could catch the most balls, and before long she wasn't dropping a single ball."

When Katie, The Times-Union's 2004 First Coast Softball Player of the Year, was old enough to play the game, Robert moved her to the pitchers' mound. And despite allowing more than 25 runs in her first game, Robert recalls his daughter saying after the game that she "really liked this pitching stuff."

Katie now has much more than a fondness for pitching, maybe because she's vastly improved since that first outing.

This past season, Lawrence went 21-2 with a 0.29 ERA as she led West Nassau High School to the final four for the first time since 1998. She was also a force at the plate, hitting .459 with 21 RBI and four home runs.

In the seven games she didn't pitch, she played first base well enough for some coaches to say she could have been considered as a First Coast first-teamer at that position with more games there.

Despite the gaudy pitching and offensive numbers, what most remember is the game in the Class 3A state semifinal against Bishop Verot.

Batting in the seventh inning of a 0-0 game, Lawrence took a pitch off the middle and ring fingers of her right hand -- her pitching hand.

Lawrence doubled over in pain. And when Warriors assistant coach Chris Hicken went out to check her hand, he saw something he had never seen before.

Lawrence was crying.

"First time I've ever cried on a softball field," Lawrence said. "I can't tell you how much that hurt."

After a few minutes Lawrence cleared her eyes and finished her at-bat -- she grounded out -- and while Candy Hicken, the West Nassau coach, and Chris, thought about pulling her in favor of Briana Durden -- a capable pitcher in her own right -- Lawrence grabbed her glove and went out to the mound.

"There was no way I was coming out," Lawrence said. …

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