BOGACZYK: Lucas Finds New Home at Third for Herd
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 20, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Katalin Lucas’ softball career at Marshall sounds a lot like the famed Abbott and Costello classic “Who’s on First?”
Shortstop … catcher … third base … second base …
However, when Herd Coach Shonda Stanton needed to fill a key position spot after a summertime personnel loss, she did not follow “third base” with the comedic routine response, “I Don’t Know.”
Stanton turned to Lucas, a senior who has started 162 of her 164 games in a Marshall uniform.
“In order to be a successful athlete within a team sport, you have to be unselfish,” Stanton said. “Katty truly is a ‘team-first’ and selfless student-athlete. She was our starting catcher on the 2013 Conference USA championship team and did a tremendous job of managing a senior ace (Andi Williamson) on the mound.
“As a sophomore and junior, because of her versatility she helped fill some holes in the infield by splitting time at short, second and behind the plate, propelling us back to the 2014 title game and helping us post our 10th 30 wins-plus season in 2015. Now for her senior year, she continues to do whatever is asked and will be the anchor of our infield as our starting third baseman.”
Lucas, who batted .423 with a team-leading 14 RBI and six extra-base hits in eight games in recently concluded “fall ball,” said she will enjoy the stability at the hot corner.
“I feel like I’m going to be more relaxed now,” Lucas said. “I can focus on one position. Last year, I was focused on catching, short and third, and all that’s kind of hard to balance, so I feel a lot better this year.
“Last year, when I was moving around, I wasn’t getting much hitting time in, thinking I was catching or playing short, so being able to hit in practice more regularly and get the instruction (this fall) helped me get my extra work in and get my mechanics down.”
Versatility has been part of Lucas’ game for a while. While she says catching is her favorite position, she was a catcher and third baseman during summer ball in her high school years in Agua Dulce, Calif. She was a pitcher during the season at Village Christian School in suburban Los Angeles.
Lucas, 21, wasn’t on the Herd’s radar back then, until former Marshall assistant coach Amanda Williams came to a California tournament while recruiting one of Lucas’ teammates.
Finally choosing between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Marshall, “once I came here I fell in love with it,” Lucas said. “Coach (Stanton) was able to connect with me better. There was that, and I just loved the history here, whereas in Texas it was the beach and I don’t like the beach. I lived by the beach, so I get enough of it. I just liked this better.
“Coach Williams saw me in San Diego when she came to watch one of my teammates … I think I hit a triple, inside-the-park home run, threw out some people. I had an awesome game – and I took the SAT earlier that day … I don’t think I studied for it, and I did pretty well.”
Entering her senior year at Marshall owns a 3.33 grade point average as a management major. She’s also seeking a minor in management information systems and marketing. She is on track to graduate in May.
Her arrival at Marshall on the field was impressive as the freshman catcher proved to be an impact player in helping the Herd to its first NCAA regionals berth as an All-C-USA Tournament team selection.
“I wouldn’t say I expected as much impact, but I felt like I could start right away, and that’s what every freshman wishes,” said the 21-year-old Lucas. “But for fall-ball (2012), I was splitting time with Taylor Winton at catcher. I thought there would be a rotation, but when the season came in the spring, I was out there and realized I was an impact player.”
Lucas batted only .211 as a Herd rookie, but her play behind the plate and working with Williamson made a difference for the Herd. Lucas has prospered at the plate, raising her batting average to .320 last season, with five homers and 27 RBI. Her career average is .260.
As one of six seniors on the 2016 roster, Lucas is being counted on by Stanton as a team leader.
“Katty is a joy to coach and fun to watch on the ball field,” Stanton said. “She leads by example, has a servant attitude and her humility and hard work make her a great teammate.”
Lucas said there’s a connection between the 2016 team that opens the season in February and those 2013 C-USA champions and NCAA participants. She said the Herd program has changed in that span, too.
“I would say we focus more on breaking things down now, instead of getting reps,” Lucas said. “That helps a lot. We had a woman from Team USA (2015 Diamond Club banquet speaker Leah O’Brien-Amico) speak about getting fundamentals in – even at the Team USA level, the pro level, so our coaches have done that more. It just helps to know why we do things, and to practice that. Then, you can put it all together at the end.
“Our six seniors, I feel like all of us are stepping up and leading. My freshman year, we had six (seniors) also, and I feel like we’re all kind of representing them, because we know how it is to win a championship and what it took to lead the team, so we’re all just trying to help fill in the gaps.”
Lucas said she learned one thing in that title season that hasn’t been as evident with the Herd in her last two seasons. It’s something she is trying to help rekindle.
“It’s the want to do it,” Lucas said. “I feel like my second year (2014) we felt that we were good enough, and it was just going to happen – whereas you actually have to work for it.
“Being one that has won it, you want it again, and you know what it takes and you’ve got to teach the younger kids what it takes. They need to want it, too.”