What’s in a number, anyway?That very well could be the question that best defines senior pitcher Katie Layne’s career. During the course of her four-year career at Wisconsin, Layne has been a staple of the UW pitching staff as the “No. 2” starter, a role she has never truly embraced or acknowledged but has nevertheless excelled in.“The whole number one-number two thing isn’t really important to me, but I try to work hard so I can get as much pitching time as I can,” said Layne, who has pitched somewhat in the shadows, behind two of the program’s all-time best, Andrea Kirchberg and Eden Brock.When Layne first came to Madison as a recruit from Vallejo, Calif., she found herself entering a pitching staff that included the Badgers’ most prolific arm to date, Andrea Kirchberg, who graduated in 2003. Kirchberg owns every major UW pitching record and was a two-time All-conference performer.That didn’t appear to faze Layne, however, as she enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign — going 11-6 with a sparkling 1.56 ERA, the fifth-best single-season ERA in Badger history. Layne jumped out to an 8-1 start, which included winning Wisconsin’s Big Ten opener 6-4 over Purdue, the first game played under the lights at Goodman Diamond. The future was brighter than ever for Layne.Unfortunately, Layne became a victim of the infamous sophomore slump, getting rocked in a 10-1 loss in the team’s first game and never really recovering. She won only three games the entire season.The difficulty of living up to the school’s all-time best pitcher was not the toughest part of Layne’s early years with Wisconsin, despite the huge shoes Layne was expected to fill after her outstanding freshman year; rather, a sudden loss of confidence was to blame.“It definitely was tough to play behind Andrea, but I think it was more the college competition in general,” Layne said. “I knew the competition would be harder, but I didn’t realize how much. When I saw the difference, I think I got very intimidated. I didn’t have much confidence in my game. At times I didn’t feel like I deserved to be here.”Layne’s tumultuous sophomore campaign was the low point for the hurler, and as her confidence fell, so did her statistics and playing time. Layne went from being the heir apparent to Kirchberg to the biggest question mark on the team in 2004. Which Katie Layne would show up? The dominant ace of 2002 or the unconfident pushover of 2003?It didn’t look good after Layne was knocked around in her second-straight season opener, opening the door for upstart freshman Brock to make a name for herself. However, Layne’s career made a U-turn Feb. 20 against the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes. Layne dominated the conference rival and UW won 6-3 on the strength of a two-run complete game. It was Wisconsin’s first victory over Iowa since 1999 and only the second ever against the Hawkeyes.Since then, Layne and Brock have split time almost evenly, though Brock is generally considered the Badgers’ No. 1, something Layne doesn’t mind too much.“I don’t feel like Eden and I are in competition at all,” Layne said. “I know that I have to keep up on my game, because I know that if I don’t, she will [take my place more often], and I think that is a great thing to have. Especially this season, we have been really supportive of each other.”In the pitcher’s circle, Layne is intense and fearless, with a Randy Johnson-esque stare that is just as much part of her repertoire as her wide array of pitches.“You can always tell Katie is on her game. She is light on the mound, with hop to her step and is entirely focused on her next pitch,” Wisconsin head coach Karen Gallagher said. “She has so much natural talent, all she needed was to be focused and she is there now. She has her moments when she is unhittable.”“My high school coach told me never to show emotion, never to let the batter know what you are thinking, and I do my best to keep them out of my head and keep my game face on,” Layne said.Layne’s game face was on the mound too much for her opponents this past weekend, when Layne came up huge when Wisconsin needed her most. The Badgers continue to fight for a spot in the Big Ten tournament and needed conference victories desperately last weekend after losing seven-straight.Layne picked up three wins, as Wisconsin went 3-1, including both games of a doubleheader on Sunday against Indiana. The wins gave Wisconsin breathing room in the conference standings and more importantly gave the team the momentum it has been starving for.“It felt great and I felt great for my team,” Layne said. “They were huge wins for us.”The big weekend for Layne only further enforces the fact that she, despite being unheralded, has not been pitching in the shadows of two of the Wisconsin’s all-time greats, but is one of them herself.
Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: email@example.com Shanee Williams had nowhere to go. The junior guard was hounded by the Long Beach State defense as she dribbled toward the basket. Unable to get to the hoop, Williams didn’t force the issue.Instead, she stopped, deftly went behind her back and lofted a pass into the paint. There, a trailing Kayla Alexander plucked the pass out of the air and finished a layup to get Syracuse on the board 30 seconds into the game.In her first action for the Orange, the junior college transfer quickly demonstrated her playmaking ability.‘I think that her athleticism and her knowledge of basketball allows her to get through a lot of situations that a lot of players wouldn’t get through,’ SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. ‘She really understands the game, and she’s played basketball pretty much all of her life.’Williams brings her understanding of the game to Syracuse (1-0) this season after spending two years at two junior colleges. She earned a spot in the starting lineup at shooting guard to start the season and played 14 minutes in the Orange’s season opener against Long Beach State on Sunday. Though she didn’t see the floor for long stretches, Williams played under control and made good decisions with the ball, turning it over just once.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor a Syracuse team that committed 28 turnovers against the 49ers, Williams’ steady play and calm demeanor on the floor was evident.Williams developed that court presence as a freshman at Monroe Community College in Rochester and during her sophomore season at Monroe College in the Bronx. After a standout career as a scorer at Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan, Williams transitioned from shooting guard to point guard in junior college when her coaches felt the 5-foot-7 guard was too small to continue playing off the ball. After moving from one Monroe to another — because she was homesick — Williams grew into that role and led the Bronx’s Monroe College to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Women’s Basketball national championship.The junior, who averaged 13.6 points and 4.1 assists per games last year, said she was nervous to play point guard at first, but eventually gained confidence in the role.‘I really felt comfortable playing, handling the ball, because I feel like I got control of the game, and I can see the floor,’ Williams said. ‘So I knew who was open, I knew who can shoot, I knew what we can do as a team.’With Williams directing the Mustangs, they finished the regular season 25-5 and entered the 2011 NJCAA Women’s Basketball National Tournament as the No. 11 seed out of 16. Williams and Monroe shocked the rest of the field as they advanced to the national championship game against No. 1 Pima (Ariz.) Community College in Peoria, Ill.Monroe head coach Seth Goodman said his team was still searching for its first field goal two and a half minutes into the game.So he turned to Williams, the star of the team, to break the Mustangs’ scoring drought.Monroe ran a pick and roll at the top of the key for Williams, giving her an opportunity to make a play with the ball in her hands. When her defender went under the screen to cut off her driving lane, Williams took a dribble and pulled back to knock down a jumper from just inside the 3-point line.‘I think the girls were a little nervous,’ Goodman said. ‘She made a tough shot and that kind of got us going a little bit.’After that first shot went down, Monroe controlled othe game and took a six-point halftime lead. And when Pima threatened late in the second half, Goodman said Williams rose to the occasion again, hitting a couple of big shots to keep the Mustangs out in front.Williams said the last play of the game will be her lasting memory from the championship run. Pima fouled her to send her to the line, and she knocked down both free throws to ice Monroe’s 78-74 victory.It was after that championship run that Williams finally felt confident as a point guard. And she will need that confidence as she makes the transition to the Division-I level.‘I’m not that person that’s outspoken,’ Williams said. ‘I let my dribbling, my shooting, whatever I can do on the court do the talking for me.’firstname.lastname@example.org