Senior leads from behind plate

Kari Dorle is one of three seniors on this year’s Gophers squad.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers softball team has a lot of youth seeing time at many positions, but a veteran holds one of the most important spots — catcher.

Senior Kari Dorle behind the plate is a familiar sight to Gophers fans.

The catcher is essentially in charge of controlling the entire team’s defense and working closely with the pitcher.

Dorle has brought consistency to both during her career.

“Catcher is a really dominant position,” Dorle said. “You’re in every single play.”

Junior Sara Moulton has thrown two no-hitters this season. She gave much of the credit for her first to Dorle, a gesture that didn’t surprise the catcher.

“Me and Moulton have played together for so long,” Dorle said. “We’ve had experience with each other, and we get along so well.”

Dorle said she and Moulton joke about who’s the better half of the duo, but they always recognize each other.

Dorle said she has a great relationship with all of the team’s pitchers.

“You’ve got to be a pitcher’s best friend,” Dorle said.

As one of three seniors on this year’s team, Dorle has accepted the role of leader, and she said she has gotten better over the years at being more vocal.

“Being a senior and being a catcher is a really big deal,” Dorle said, “because of the role that [catchers] play with the pitcher and everybody else.”

Head coach Jessica Allister said it’s important to have a veteran play catcher because “the entire defense is looking at her.”

The coach, who was a catcher at Stanford in her playing days, said Dorle has one of the best arms she’s ever seen.

“She’s so accurate,” Allister said. “She eliminates the running game.”

No running game means teams are forced to sacrifice at-bats in order to advance runners, Allister said.

The coach said she has seen Dorle progress a lot during her three years of coaching her.

“She’s matured a lot as a player, both offensively and defensively,” Allister said.

While Dorle has improved behind the plate, her batting numbers have regressed — from .298 and .268 in her sophomore and junior seasons, respectively, to .189 this season.

Dorle said her plan is to continue working in practice and try not to worry about her average too much. Her goals her final season are team-oriented.

“I would love to win the Big Ten Conference,” Dorle said. “That’s my biggest goal right now.”