Fastpitch: South Kitsap catcher thinks outside the Box

It is the coveted position.

South Kitsap has featured players such as Caty Lieseke, Breann Booher, Trish Tremper and Meagan Ransier behind the plate since 2007.

That star talent essentially makes catcher the equivalent of the fastpitch team’s quarterback. Because of the depth and desire to play that position within the program, coach Kathy Ballew often has used multiple catchers in recent years. Tremper shared time with Booher in 2008 and again with Ransier last season.

But for the first time since Lieseke, who now plays at Whitworth University, held the position three years ago, the Wolves have a full-time starter behind the plate.

With the position filled last year, Bridjet Box volunteered to play second base. But before her senior season, she approached Ballew about playing catcher. Ballew, who viewed it as an opportunity to move to shift the athletic Ransier to shortstop, agreed.

“We could use other peoples skills elsewhere,” Ballew said. “Skilled versatility is really what got us this far.”

South won its first Narrows League championship since 2005 and finished with a 17-5 record after it was eliminated during Tuesday’s West Central District Tournament. It was a final opportunity for Box, who signed to play next year at Centralia College along with first baseman Alexis O’Dell, to suit up for South.

“It’s amazing to come this far and be Narrows League champions,” Box said.

She began playing only six years ago. Box took up baseball when she was five, and only switched sports when she noticed a flier for fastpitch.

“It was just something different that I wanted to try,” she said. “I got into it and I loved it.”

Similar to many of her teammates, Box has played several positions, including third base and outfield. But there is nothing she prefers more than putting on her maroon chest protector, sliding the mask down to her chin and receiving a fastball from Emilly Cunningham.

“I just loved it because I was good at it and there’s more control over the field and seeing everything,” Box said.

But her ability to block pitches in the dirt or catch potential base stealers — Box threw out two attempts by Rogers to pilfer second base during the Wolves’ 5-3 loss Monday in the opening round of districts — is as much about talent as it is work ethic.

Box often finds herself hustling after a game ends to drive to Gig Harbor, where she works stocking selves at Fred Meyer.

“It’s tough,” Box said. “But I think it’s getting me set for college and being out on my own.”

Ballew said Box’s maturity made her a natural to serve as one of the team’s captains.

“Her leadership skills have been priceless,” she said.

In addition to her work with Cunningham on the mound — Box said their thought process is so similar that communication between them often is nonverbal — she has worked to improve at the plate. Against Rogers, Box went 2 for 4 with a double.

“I was really surprised they actually pitched to her,” said Ballew, who regularly placed Box fourth in the lineup behind Cunningham.

It was just a proposition that some Narrows League coaches, who recently named her along with Wilson’s Taylor Clark as first-team all-league selections at catcher, chose to skip.

And another reason why Box will add her name to the list of successful South catchers.

“I just pushed myself forward for that position,” she said. “I earned it.”

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