There’s a reason Sam Grazier caught every inning of every game this season for the Jay M. Robinson High softball team.“What I like in her is that she takes the heat off a pitcher, and that is key,” said Bulldogs coach Jim Allen. “She’s under composure at all times.”She’s only a sophomore, but Grazier’s maturity behind the plate was one of the key components in Robinson’s run to the 3A state championship series. The Bulldogs lost the best-of-three series 2-1, but Grazier is one of six starters expected to return next year.“I’m very proud of our team to get this far,” Grazier said a day after the series loss to Greenville D.H. Conley. “We would have liked to come in first. We all contributed and did our best to get as far as we went. We left it all on the field out there.”Grazier’s play was pivotal in several of Robinson’s nine state playoff games.The Bulldogs (29-4) marched to the Western regional final with victories against Anson County, China Grove Carson, North Iredell and Marvin Ridge. Robinson swept Enka in the Western finals, but lost games two and three to Conley in the finals.Grazier helped push Robinson to within reach of its first state championship when her line-drive single led off the top of the eighth inning of the first game against Conley. Grazier was relieved by courtesy runner Cara Hardin, who later scored the eventual game-winning run.In the clinching the 1-0 victory over Enka, Grazier led off the eighth inning with a single to right. Hitting behind Grazier, Tori Zavodny missed on a sacrifice bunt attempt, but Grazier stole second anyway. Grazier scored the winning run on Alyssa Sciandone’s double.Grazier may be better known for her defense; her arm was on display in the quarterfinal victory over Marvin Ridge. With Robinson protecting a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Marvin Ridge put runners on first and third with one out.The runner on third base got too large a lead, and Grazier picked her off for the second out. The next batter drove in a runner from second base, pulling Marvin Ridge to within 3-2, which was the final score.Without her gear on, Grazier doesn’t look much like a high school catcher. At 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds, she’s small by most standards. She makes up for it with her solid demeanor and powerful, accurate arm.Grazier’s positioning behind the plate also gives her an advantage that most catchers don’t have. She’s cognizant of the angles she establishes and gets closer to hitters than most backstops do, allowing umpires to get a better view of home plate.“She bows out her legs and really gets up under the batter,” said Allen. “That puts the umpire closer to the batter, which is what you want. She might be the best technically sound catcher I’ve had.”Grazier has been catching since she was 9. She and Robinson’s primary pitcher, fellow sophomore Keleigh Romine, have been battery mates since seventh grade, when they were teammates at J.N. Fries Middle.“I enjoy catching a lot,” said Grazier. “Catching every single inning doesn’t bother me. I enjoy catching, and catching Keleigh. She and I are good as a team.“… If the pitcher is having a hard time, you tell them to relax. I try to communicate with them and tell them what they are doing wrong. I try to make them look as good as I can. If their pitches aren’t working, I try to frame their pitches.”Even though Grazier didn’t log many at-bats for the season, her offensive numbers were still impressive. Grazier batted .333 with 13 runs scored and 10 RBIs.Grazier’s sister, Chelsie, is a freshman shortstop/outfielder for the Bulldogs. They will spend their summer together, playing on the Lady Blues under-16 tournament team. Both hope to play softball in college.
Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013
Catcher helps Bulldogs to state runner-up finish
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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