- Graham Hays, espnW.com
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The best college softball player in the United States comes from a town just north of the border between Washington and British Columbia.
A junior pitcher for the University of Washington, Danielle Lawrie was named USA Softball Player of the Year during Tuesday's opening ceremonies at the Women's College World Series. She is the first player from the school to win the award and edged a pair of senior finalists in Florida's Stacey Nelson and Arizona State's Kaitlin Cochran.
"There were a lot of other great athletes up for the award, so I think that I'm still soaking it in," Lawrie said. "I had to congratulate both of them, because it could have been either one of them as well."
One of the final 25 candidates for the award as a sophomore in 2007, Lawrie used a redshirt last season at Washington in order to play for the Canadian Olympic team.
Lawrie is 37-7 with a 0.84 ERA in her return to the college game this season. She leads the nation with 472 strikeouts in 308 innings. With one full year of eligibility remaining, she's already 15th all time in strikeouts in the NCAA record books with 1,316, leaving her 60 strikeouts away from the top 10 and 452 away from the top five.
She also became the first player in NCAA history to no-hit Arizona and UCLA in the same season, beating Arizona on April 3 and UCLA on April 29.
"You don't want to say that one player makes your program, but obviously it starts in the circle," coach Heather Tarr said. "It's just been awesome to see her growth and development, from the time she started as a freshman, kind of as a baby, and knowing what she was capable of and being able to see it come right before our eyes with her team is just neat."
A regular part of Washington's batting order when she pitches, Lawrie is hitting .277 with six home runs and 25 RBI this season. In the win last weekend against Georgia Tech that clinched a World Series berth, she threw a three-hit shutout and hit two home runs.
"She's like a living legacy now for our program, which is awesome," Tarr said.
Seeking the program's first national championship in its ninth World Series appearance, the third-seeded Huskies are the second highest remaining seed in the competition after top-seeded Florida. They are 46-11 this season, including 5-1 in the NCAA tournament.
"I wouldn't have experienced anything better than that," Lawrie said of a potential championship. "To me, that's the best thing that this team could possibly get in my career. That would be amazing."
Former Virginia Tech pitcher Angela Tincher won the award last year. Other past winners include former UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman and former University of Texas pitcher Cat Osterman, who is the only player to win the award multiple times.
Lawrie and the Huskies open their World Series schedule on Thursday afternoon against No. 6 seed Georgia.
Graham Hays covers women's sports for ESPN.com.