FORT DODGE, Iowa — The importance of Maddie Harris to the Western Dubuque softball team can not be understated.
The junior catcher is, after all, the glue that has helped bind the Bobcats together in this magical season.
“She just has that presence that we need, and she has the loud voice behind the plate and she demands where the ball goes,” Western Dubuque pitcher Sydney Kennedy said. “She just has that catcher’s presence. That leader catcher presence.”
It’s an important presence, too.
Harris, who was voted the Telegraph Herald High School Athlete of the Week, has been responsible for calling every pitch the Bobcats have thrown this season.
“Every coach in the world has told me I’m crazy to have pitchers and catchers calling pitches, but I’m a firm believer in it and Maddie has made me look good in that respect for sure,” WD coach Rex Massey said.
She sure has.
Kennedy is 17-5 with a 1.65 earned run average and 189 strikeouts and 37 walks in 140 1/3 innings this season. Meredith Hoerner is 16-2 with a 2.32 ERA. She has struck out 140 and walked 40 in 108 2/3 innings.
The Bobcats have allowed just 69 earned runs, have a team ERA of 1.92 and the pitching staff allows just 1.01 walks and hits per inning pitched.
“She just has that catcher’s blood, so she knows what to throw,” Kennedy said. “She knows to throw all over the zone so you’re like, ‘Oh my God, where is she going to throw it next?’”
Her defensive presence alone lifts the Bobcats. She’s also a tremendous hitter. She’s third on the team with a .422 batting average (46-for-109) and has seven doubles, two triples and a home run. She has scored 20 runs and driven in 39.
She is clutch at the plate, too. She singled to spark a two-run second inning in last week’s Class 4A regional final against West Delaware, then added a two-run single an inning later as the Bobcats beat the Hawks, 6-3, to earn the program’s second trip to the state tournament.
Harris said it’s all about her mindset.
“I’m beating the pitcher. They’re not going to strike me out. Whatever I do, I’m going to put it in play,” she said. “If you go up there scared of the pitcher, you’re not going to be ready to hit and you’re just going to strike out or pop out.”
As for the rest of what Harris brings to the Bobcats?
Well, when Kennedy found out Harris was the Athlete of the Week, she hopped up and down a couple times, clapped her hands and let out a little cheer — “I just love her so much,” Kennedy said.
It’s all about chemistry.
“Maddie does a lot of things that will never get in the stat book,” Massey said. “She’s a big part of keeping the attitude and atmosphere in the group pretty light-hearted. We kid and joke quite a bit, pretty much every time we communicate.”