SILVERDALE — It’s tough being a catcher.
There are not many people — let alone softball players — who want to be the destination for a fastball or have the desire to put their body in front of a ball that bounces in the dirt. But Calli Frisinger isn’t like most people.
The Central Kitsap senior is nearing the end of her final season. She’s started all four years on the varsity squad for the Cougars, often being penciled in as the blockade behind home plate. And while many ballplayers shy away from that position, Frisinger owns it.
“Sometimes when we’re not doing [well], I want to hang my head,” she said. “But I know that I can’t because [my teammates] see how I react to every play. I know that I have to keep a smile on my face and be positive.”
When catchers put on their gear, they’re assuming more than a position. They’re taking on a leadership role — and one that is consistently responsible for the team’s success.
Popping up and tossing the ball back to the mound with a grin on her face often produces a smirk from her pitcher. That can be just enough to snap her ace back into focus after giving up a walk, hit or throwing a wild pitch.
Softball is a funny game. Sometimes when a pitcher misses their target, mental doubts can creep in, eating away at their physical ability. And that is especially true if the pitcher is young, like Central Kitsap’s No. 1 flamethrower, freshman Paris Agana. It can be difficult to maneuver around mistakes without letting the opposing team get to you.
“She likes to get down on herself when she’s not pitching super great,” Frisinger said of Agana. “I do my best to try and make sure she’s not in her own head and shakes every pitch off.”
That’s a valuable asset for a first-year pitcher in high school softball. But it’s not just Frisinger’s defense that makes her stand out. She’s also an offensive pacesetter with her speed and ability to hit for contact. What better position in the lineup for her to be in than the leadoff spot? It’s a place where, again, she can set the tone for the Cougars.
However, Frisinger wasn’t always the contact-hitter she now considers herself to be.
“My sophomore and junior year, I hit a little here and there but usually I was the eighth or ninth batter,” she said. “I didn’t start hitting first until this year.”
It took patience and practice for Frisinger to master slap hitting, which is when the batter runs as they are swinging to improve their chances of reaching base. This is seen exclusively from left-handed batters.
The only problem was that Frisinger was right-handed. That is, until head coach Courtney Cotter did something ununsual at the high school level — she asked her to bat lefty.
“My freshman year,” Frisinger said, “she was like, ‘Oh you’re fast, we should teach you how to slap.’ ”
With the help of her coach and a former player, Frisinger now bats leadoff as a slap hitter, and it has led to success at the plate. Heading into Central Kitsap’s April 23 match against Gig Harbor, Frisinger was hitting over .400.
While Frisinger hopes to lead the Cougars to a postseason berth in the coming weeks, she is also preparing for her final couple months of high school before attending Central Washington University, where she’ll transition from Cougar to Wildcat. She hopes to major in geology and engineering.
Frisinger is also considering walking on to Central Washington’s softball team. It would be a daunting task, something most high school softball players choose not to pursue.
But then again, Frisinger isn’t like most people.
— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at Jmoore@soundpublishing.com or follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.