Donovan’s Growth Propels Utes Higher

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Utah Women's Softball pitcher sophomore Katie Donovan (13) pitches during the game vs. the BYU Cougars at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium on campus on Wednesday, March 15, 2016

Junior pitcher Katie Donovan’s growth has stretched far beyond her ability to command her pitches.

The trust level that the University of Utah coaching staff had in Donovan as a young freshman made her a vital piece to the Utes’ pitching staff early on.

“Miranda [Viramontes] and I came in to the program together and at that time the team really needed pitching,” Donovan said. “There wasn’t really much pressure at that time, because we were just so excited to see as much playing time as we did as freshmen.”

During her first season in the circle for the Utes, Donovan earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors twice, she was first team All-Conference, she was named to the Pac-12 All Freshmen team, and she was a second team All-Region pitcher. She finished third in the conference in strikeouts with 154, and she had an ERA of 2.66. Donovan made her mark early and often in her first season, and she cemented herself as a force for the Utes.

She still had work to do.

“Katie will always work on her game whether you ask her to or not,” said head coach Amy Hogue. “I would call her a perfectionist, not selfish by any means, but a perfectionist for sure.”

The accolades continued into her sophomore season. Once again she was first team All-Conference, and her 20 wins in 2016 ranked her third among all Pac-12 pitchers. Her ERA dropped to 2.47 and she recorded 141 strikeouts. More importantly, Donovan beat No. 9 Kentucky not once, but twice in the NCAA tournament.

“Having success in the tournament last year helped the team, as well as myself, have confidence going into this season, and to have a vision of where we want to be,” Donovan said. “We made it to the round of 16 last year, and we know that the goal is at least the round of eight this year.”

Despite a second season of success, her work was not done.

“Katie approached us as coaches at the end of last season, and asked what she needed to do to become more of a leader on the team,” Hogue said. “We told her it would be more of a confidence thing than anything else. She had to learn how to be a calming force for the team when she’s in the circle. She had to learn how to be animated when she got a strikeout because that gives the rest of the team a psychological boost. She already is willing to outwork anyone, but it had to become more about being someone the girls could rally around. The biggest thing we told Katie was to learn how to be a part of the bigger picture of the game.”

Donovan agreed.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve been learning is that I need to be a team pitcher,” Donovan said. “Early on in my career, I always felt like I needed to get every out. I needed to have a perfect game every time I stepped into the circle, and now I am understanding that, my job is to help get the team up to bat again. If that means three ground-outs, that’s okay. It has taken a lot of the pressure to be perfect off of me, and has made the game more fun as a team.”

Donovan’s growth has been noticed so far. The Utes are 5-0 for the first time since 2010 and Donovan is 3-0 with one save. The team is ranked 16th in the country and has won four of its five games with a shutout.

“We made Katie a captain this season,” Hogue said. “Her willingness to grow and learn the game within the game has helped us to get on top of teams and stay on top and really make the games a lot of fun to be a part of.”

For Donovan, the perfectionist mentality has extended beyond the field. She was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team last season while majoring in biology. The dedication to be the best in all aspects of her life will be a driving force for the Utes as they head into Pac-12 play in the coming weeks.

b.marshall@dailyutahchronicle.com

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