The relationship between a pitcher and catcher can be summed up with one word: trust. A pitcher has to trust that whatever call their catcher makes will lead to the best outcome. Not every game will be perfect, but the ultimate goal is a win.
After a long break due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the chemistry between senior pitcher JoJo Valencia and senior catcher Courtney Ogle may need some time to get running again.
Ogle had a limited amount of playing time before the 2020 season was cut short. In that time she made a good impression, leading Valencia to praise her for being supportive.
“I met Courtney last year, and she didn’t catch me a whole lot, but I think one of the games that I remember her catching, it was probably one of the most stressful games that I had pitched,” Valencia said. “The only thing I honestly remember is how supportive she was throughout.”
Valencia said ever since that road game against the University of Alabama, Ogle has had her trust. She said Ogle knew how to put her at ease and talk to her, which are great characteristics to have as a catcher.
Head coach Peejay Brun believes team chemistry is important, but with the pandemic it’s been hard to bond. She said that she is seeing more progress on that front from the team with practice.
“Because of a lot of the restrictions, we haven’t had the ability to bond a lot more as a team, and that’s been their focus,” Brun said. “I think that is definitely changing, you can see it at practice every day, the energy is there.”
Communication is key in any sport, but with the pandemic it’s a bit more challenging. Valencia still finds ways to keep in touch with Ogle, whether it’s texting or social media.
“It’s a little bit harder now with COVID just kinda social distancing, we can’t hang out as much,” Valencia said. “We always text each other or Snapchat each other, we have group messages and stuff. So kinda keeping that communication has been really important just because we can’t really see each other as much.”
As for Ogle, she is still trying to build relationships with all of the pitchers on the roster. Before the season was cut short Ogle appeared in 12 games, starting in only three games as catcher.
“Creating relationships between my pitchers has been a huge thing,” Ogle said. “I think that is really going to help in the games to come.”
Ogle’s relationship with Valencia is one that she wants to continue growing. Each opportunity to catch for Valencia is one that she is happy to take, Ogle said.
“I think we have a good chemistry and good relationship,” Ogle said. “She’s one of the hardest workers we have on our pitching staff, and every time we’re in the bullpen, she’s always there to get better.”
Ogle said when she got the news Valencia was returning for another year, she was filled with excitement knowing she would be able to catch for her.
“I was so excited because I wasn’t really able to catch her a lot last year, and whenever I was able to catch her, I absolutely loved it,” Ogle said. “I was super excited for the opportunity to be able to grow that relationship.”
Brun said the relationship between a pitcher and a catcher is the most important on the field.
“I was a catcher in college, so I understand this part really well,” Brun said. “If there is not a connection between the pitcher and the catcher, the pitcher won’t ever really understand what throwing a game of her life is going to be.”
At the end of the day it all boils down to one common goal between the two, which is winning a championship.
“The goal is always to win the Sun Belt Conference and the tournament,” Valencia said. “Beyond that I just want us to be able to just honestly have fun and enjoy each game that we have.”