Holt emerges as leader for GV softball

GVL / Robert Mathews
Senior Emily Holt running towards first base after a line drive against UWP.

GVL / Robert Mathews Senior Emily Holt running towards first base after a line drive against UWP.

Pete Barrows

In football, it’s the quarterback who lines up under center and is tasked with distributing the ball, calling plays and managing the game. In softball, it’s the catcher who assumes these roles.

The 39-6 (25-3, GLIAC) Grand Valley State University softball team, ranked No. 9 in the latest National Fastpitch Coaching Association (NFCA) poll—its highest ranking since 2002, just completed its most successful season in years with a GLIAC regular season crown. GVSU has a roster comprised of stars, and all 19 girls have played a role, but without the stellar play, on-field direction and diamond quarterbacking contributed not-so quietly by senior Emily Holt behind the plate, the 2013 Lakers wouldn’t be what they are now.

“I think she’s doing well,” said GVSU head coach Doc Woods. “She’s a program player. She’s been in the program and has worked her way into playing time—she’s performing well right now. She’s a good field general, she keeps track of everything that’s going on and lets our players know what we want to do in situations. In that regard, she does real well.”

After splitting starts in a time-share of the position with then-senior Carli Raisutis in her junior campaign, Holt has assumed the position full-time as a senior and has made it her own. One of eight senior student-athletes on the 2013 squad, Holt is a team leader whose game speaks for itself. Of course, that is if you could hear her game over the sound of her insistently applied game day chatter.

“I remember playing even before Grand Valley having people in the stands being like ‘I will give you $200 if you be quiet’ or just offering different things,” Holt said. “I guess would I love $200, yes, but just making the progression where I’m in the other team’s head, but I’m also in my own team’s head, is worth more.”

The self-proclaimed most talkative player in the GLIAC, Holt, who entered Sunday’s games batting .268 (.421 with runners in scoring position) with 13 RBI and a homerun, is not a liability on offense and will occasionally use her bat to talk. Where she really makes her impact, though, is with a glove coating her hand, purveying the field through a molded facemask as she quarterbacks the game.

“I think she’s a big factor in that (pitching),” Woods said. “One is her calling of pitchers. We let our catchers call the game. Some teams’ coaches (will) call them, but we let our catchers—they’re out there, they see what’s going on. Emily’s a very intelligent person on the game. I think she calls a great game and the other thing is pitchers can feel confident throwing because she’ll block everything.”

Holt, who takes blocking and her role as the last defense against passed balls as a point of pride, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s why I’m behind the plate—I love blocking. I’m probably one of the only catchers you’ll find that appreciates a good block. I have a few bruises to prove it, but I stay in front of it.”

She has already caught 244 strikeouts, 15 shutouts and two no-hitters put together by the one-two punch combination of GLIAC Freshman of the Year Sara Andrasik and senior Hannah Santora. Holt is also a classically cerebral catcher and possesses a keen understanding of what it takes to manage a successful pitching staff like the one possessed by the 2013 Lakers.

“A lot of catchers get confused on, but you’re not just mixing up pitchers for the game,” Holt said. “I look at stats, I look at pitching charts and I mix up pitches per batter. I know when there’s a new batter coming in the game, I know what she hit last game, I could go through the lineup and say ‘She went to leftfield last time, she fouled it off here.’”

The only team members more grateful for Holt’s contributions than the GVSU pitching rotation may be the Laker coaching staff. A direct liason, Holt knows everyone’s role on the field, including her own, and makes it a point to keep everyone on their toes.

“I feel like I have a lot of control in the game,” Holt said. “Doc is very adamant that he trusts my pitch calling and he trusts my play calling to the point where if there’s a play and something gets screwed up, it’s my job, I go out and talk to Doc. Doc’s always in my ear, which is always nice because I know what he wants, which is transferred to what the team needs when I’m on the field.”

Above all else, it’s Holts contagious love for the game that makes her the catcher that she is, and she isn’t afraid to make her passion or her skills known.

The Lakers have serious championship aspirations to fulfill and have the caliber of catcher they require to see them through.

“I love being behind the plate,” Holt said. “One of my favorite things is standing behind the plate with my helmet off telling everyone where to go—I have a lot to say.”
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