Lady Tops find leader with Sulaski

Nick Bratcher

Constant noise fills the WKU Softball Complex as opposing teams chatter and cheer. Umpires shout about called third strikes and balls that land just foul, and parents yell back about each call they “miss.”

It seems poetic that the Lady Topper trusted most in all the noise doesn’t like to make much of it herself.

Sophomore pitcher Mallorie Sulaski, a member of the pre-season All-Sun Belt Conference Team, is an integral part of a three-player pitching rotation for WKU (14-8) this season.

Sulaski said she draws from her off-field personality to stay poised in every on-field situation.

“I think I’m just a calm person,” she said. “It’s just my demeanor. I try not to get too overexcited about things.”

Sulaski said she prefers her game to reflect that quiet nature.

“If anything is getting too crazy or out of control, I just remind myself that I need to calm down and relax and play the game,” she said.

That relaxation is paying big dividends. Sulaski has already pitched a no-hitter this season and notched a win against No. 6 Michigan on March 13.

She has a 6-2 record in nine starts this year, totaling 33 strikeouts in 58 innings with a 1.21 ERA.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said Sulaski’s work ethic serves as a quiet but constant example of Lady Topper softball at its finest.

“She’s very quiet,” she said. “She’s very much a leader by example. She’s not going to do a lot of ‘rah-rah’ or a lot of talking or instruction, but she is going to be that person that’s at the front of the line, doing everything with maximum effort.”

Perry said what Sulaski lacks in age, she makes up for in character.

“She’s a great leader on the team even though she’s a younger player,” she said. “Most important, she’s a person of character. If she says she’s going to do something, then she’s going to do it.

“If you tell the team to run, then she’s going to run hard. She’s that type of player.”

That kind of effort has had a definite ripple effect on the Lady Toppers.

Sophomore Casey Clark said Sulaski pushes her to give her absolute best.

“I want to be as hard of a worker as her,” she said. “She definitely influences me to try my best and make people have the confidence in me that they have in her.”

Clark said despite Sulaski’s focus on the field, she knows how to have a little fun, too.

“People think she’s really quiet,” Clark said. “But once you get to know her, she’s hilarious and a lot of fun to hang out with.”

How does the standout sophomore cope with all the extra pressure?

Sulaski said her teammates share the load so well that she hasn’t even noticed.

“The team’s made it really easy,” she said. “A lot of freshmen have stepped up, so I don’t really feel any pressure. I think everyone is equally important, so if I don’t step up, someone else will.”

Perry said Sulaski was being modest about her role, but that’s what makes her an asset to the team.

“I’m sure she feels pressure,” Perry said. “As good of a player as she is, she’s human. But one of the things that makes her such a good player is that she knows how to handle pressure and stays focused.”

Sulaski and the rest of the Lady Toppers start conference play this weekend in Mobile, Ala., against South Alabama. They’ll play a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. and a third game on Sunday at noon.