Patrick Leading the Pack by Example
by Kim Medina ... Medina is completing her senior internship at the Reynolds School of Journalism, at the University of Nevada, through the Media Services Office at Nevada.
This past weekend, the Nevada softball team honored its three seniors who played their final games in Hixson Park. Included among them was shortstop Danielle Patrick, a shortstop from Chino Hills, Calif., who takes pride in leading by example.
"A lot of times I'll practice outside of practice." Patrick said. "I work as much as I can, trying to get better every second and every chance that I have."
Head coach Matt Meuchel agrees.
"Danielle's just one of those people that leads by example every day," he said. "She's somebody that doesn't have to do a lot. Her game is better sometimes when she doesn't feel that need to be vocal and she just goes out and shows it."
At the start of the season, Patrick had to miss three weeks in the field - she served as the team's designated player to keep her strong bat in the lineup - due to a knee injury. Meuchel said he has put her in many situations because of her injury and she has excelled in all of them.
"She's really handled her injury well," he said. "Defensively she needed to recover and the best situation for her was to hit at that point. She really thrived in that situation. When we needed her back in defense she thrived in that situation as well.
"Because she is a senior, she knows what it takes mentally to be able to prepare for that situation."
Patrick didn't let her injury stop her from finishing the season on top. In March, Patrick was named WAC Hitter of the Week after she hit two doubles and a home run during the week.
"When Coach called me and told me congratulations I was (surprised)," she said. "I didn't even know. It felt really good. It always feels good to get awards."
Patrick said she was surprised because she doesn't keep track of the numbers.
"One thing that I don't do is look at stats," she said. "I feel like if I look at my stats I force myself to try to do better. I hold myself up to a high standard so I don't want to look at the stats.
Patrick has been playing softball since she was 10 years old. She said she started playing because all of her friends did and once she started, she fell in love with the game.
During her recruitment, Nevada was one of the first schools she visited. Meuchel was the Wolf Pack's assistant coach at the time and he identified Patrick as a top prospect. That led to then-head coach Michelle Gardener offering Patrick a scholarship to Nevada.
"I couldn't pass up a full-ride," she said. "I found a place and it worked out."
Patrick is one of the top performers on the team with a .301 average and a .874 field percentage. She also has the second highest home runs on the team with six this season.
Patrick will graduate next May along with her teammate Britton Murdock. She is majoring in social work and plans to stay at Nevada for graduate school.
Although Nevada has not found the success on the field that it had hoped for, the Wolf Pack heads into this weekend's series at Fresno State with a chance to qualify for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. Nevada will need at least two wins and some help from other teams in the conference in order to qualify.
"Our team is finally in a groove and were just going to go for it," she said. "We have nothing to lose and we all want the same thing. We want to go to the WAC tournament. We don't want the season to end this weekend.
"The team is confident. We're all swinging really well. I'm really excited and I think we're going to do really well."
The seniors are an essential part of the team, past and present, and it will be difficult to replace them, Meuchel said.
"They're a core group that has won a couple of WAC championships and they know what it takes to win," he said. "They're consistent performers. You know what you're going to get from them day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. They're steady, high level performers.
"It's going to be a challenge to be able to replace them along the way. They've really done a good job of leading us this year when we needed it."