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Lafayette's pitcher as tough as her mask
Lafayette pitcher as tough as her mask
By Norm Woodfirstname.lastname@example.org
WILLIAMSBURG -- Nothing rattles Lafayette pitcher Katie Bruce when she's on the softball field. She started proving it when she was 12 years old ... the hard way.
Bruce has established herself as one of the most consistent pitchers in the area. Her drop-curve and rise pitches have been almost untouchable at times this season. She does it all with a quiet, fearless approach. Six years ago, her fearlessness was tested.
Bruce doesn't remember what pitch she threw to the hitter in that Williamsburg Starz youth softball league game. She doesn't remember hearing the crack of the bat, or the ensuing crack of her forehead.
"Apparently, the ball bounced off my forehead and didn't land until it reached the outfield," Bruce said. "It's a good thing I've got a hard head."
Maybe more amazing than her bionic skull was the fact she shook off the injury, and stayed in the game.
Since that game, she has pitched while wearing a clear protective mask made of polycarbonate, the same material in bulletproof glass. The mask might have helped her get noticed two summers ago in a softball camp at Lynchburg College.
"When I was at the Lynchburg camp, some people and coaches would say, 'Oh, there's the girl with the mask' " said Bruce, who carries a 4.02 grade point average. "By the end of the camp, another girl had even bought one."
Bruce, 18, made quite an impression at that camp. After the camp, she sent out highlight tapes of herself to coaches at Lynchburg, Roanoke, Bridgewater, Randolph-Macon, Mary Washington and James Madison. Lynchburg never forgot her. In August, she decided Lynchburg would be her next academic and athletic stop.
Bruce, who has struck out 158 batters in 113 innings, has endured tough times at Lafayette (10-7, 9-6 Bay Rivers District), which plays today at Smithfield. In her first three high school seasons, the Rams finished with district records of 5-13, 6-12 and 8-10.
Last season, Lafayette had a breakthrough season when it qualified for the district tournament for the first time in school history, and won its first-round game against Tabb. Bruce also earned first-team all-district honors.
"I know for me it was an important achievement," said Bruce about earning all-district distinction last season. "This year, our first goal was to make it to (the state tournament). I know that's a big goal to go from districts to regionals and right to states, but we like the challenge. Beating New Kent and Grafton this season, I guess people kind of recognize us as one of the better teams in the district."
Catcher Jessica Carroll has witnessed Bruce's unflappable demeanor for years. Carroll has known Bruce since they were both about three years old.
"She's so calm about everything," said Carroll, who carries a 4.0 GPA and is headed to Virginia Tech in the fall.
"Nothing gets under her skin. ... The only person she's ever gotten mad at is herself. If she loses, she usually feels like she was completely responsible for it, and she usually wasn't the person to blame at all."
With her college future determined before her senior year, Bruce has been able to focus more on her final softball season. She has been the biggest reason Lafayette has become a legitimate threat in the district, something her coach doesn't take for granted.
"You've got to win pitcher and catcher (positions) in this game," Lafayette coach Tom Bunn said. "We win the pitching spot pretty much every game...She'll do everything a coach will ask her to do."
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