Caitlin Mastenbroek may be the most hated softball player in the Northwest Conference.

Mastenbroek has developed a reputation for being tough. The Pacific catcher is no nonsense at the plate. She loves to play head games. She'll plow right through a batter for a chance to throw out a runner or stand more solid than a brick wall to keep a runner from coming home.

The Pacific junior admits that her reputation is indeed truth.

'It's the intensity I play with,' said the two-time First Team All-Conference catcher. 'I don't go out there to make friends. I go out there as a means to an end. It's not that I am disrespectful to other players, but I am a take-charge player.'

Actually, some batters in the conference would dispute that last point. You see, Caitlin loves to talk behind the plate. Trash talk. Nothing profane, mind you, but chatter about where the pitches are and which ones a batter can and cannot hit. And often times, she is right.

In the Boxers' season-opening series, Mastenbroek flustered a Whitworth batter by saying 'bye-bye' after she was fanned by an Andrea Bansen fastball. Last year, a Willamette player gave a long glare after Mastenbroek reminded her there was no way she was going to hit a pitch. It was the third time she had struck out.

It's all about the chess match that is embedded in every softball game.

'Every time I hold a strike there just long enough for them to look at it, it breaks their concentration,' Mastenbroek said. 'Every time I can say something to my pitcher and distract their concentration, the more effective that pitch is going to be.'

Mastenbroek has had that attitude ever since she started playing youth sports in her hometown of Scio. Ever since tee-ball, she has developed an aggressive attitude for any game. She finished her high school career as the Tri-River League's Player of the Year and was also a league placer for Scio in downhill ski racing.

Mastenbroek has all the physical skills to be a successful player. She has power at the plate. Her .389 batting average is among the best in the conference. Her arm is deadly to would-be base stealers. She has led the conference in runners picked off each of the last two years and led the NWC in throwing out base stealers as a freshman.

But it's the attitude that makes her so successful. Head coach Tim Hill, intense during games himself, has even referred to Mastenbroek as his extension on the field. The two have developed a relationship where they seem to think alike.

As she has moved from a freshman to one of the team's upperclassmen leaders (Pacific has no seniors on the roster), Mastenbroek admits that, maybe, she needs to tone down the attitude a bit. She has proven herself to be one of the conference's best players, but now she wants that respect from the league's other players.

To that, Caitlin might have to be just a little nicer at the plate. Or maybe not.

'Sometimes I am too focused on winning,' Mastenbroek said. 'But I am not going to change because I like winning so much.'

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