UWS Baseball Pitcher, Catcher Rely on Previous Experience, Trust at Next Level
Bryce Flanagan and Josh Hukriede began playing together in 2012 in Brainerd. Now, the two are taking their connection to grow and find success at UWS.
SUPERIOR, Wis. – The relationship between the pitcher and catcher, also known as the battery in baseball, is one of the most important ones on the field. For two members of the UWS baseball team, that on-field connection built over the years has become a lifelong friendship.
Growing up in Brainerd, Minnesota, it was only a matter of time before Bryce Flanagan and Josh Hukriede crossed paths.
“I’d say probably since about, I was in 9th or 10th grade,” Flanagan said.
“We were playing in our town’s amateur league so I was always his catcher and we got to know each other pretty well from there,” Hukriede added.
The two became a packaged deal when Flanagan was on the mound, communicating and forming trust.
“He gives me a lot of confidence back there, he works the zone good, treats the umpires nice so I know I’ll get some calls later in the game, and you can just really rely on him back there,” Flanagan said.
“We’re always on the same page, always thinking the same pitch to throw at the same time and I know I can trust him to throw a 2-1, 3-1 slider and get it in there for a strike,” Hukriede added.
Flanagan went off to UWS and had to adjust to a new catcher. When it was time for Hukriede to look for colleges a few years later, Flanagan worked to get his former catcher back.
“I was the first one to edge him to Superior so when he said he was going to come, it put a smile on my face,” Flanagan said.
“Bryce is a big reason that Josh came to our program. Having an upperclassman have that confidence in you as a first year player is going to help you feel more comfortable, be successful,” head coach Frank Pufall added.
Now the duo is back for their first full season together on the Yellowjackets.
“Right away from day one because we didn’t have to do anything it was OK if I pitch, he’s going to be my catcher and every game that I’ve pitched, he’s been my catcher,” Flanagan said.
“Watching them play together, you can obviously tell that they’ve played together for a long time. There was a comfort level and a language they could speak where maybe if it wasn’t exactly what we used, [Bryce] could translate it or let him know what’s going on and I think that helped [Josh] pick up on those pickoff plays quicker and really trust his abilities,” Pufall added.
And the relationship they’ve built over the years means much more than strikes and signs.
“Even when we’re up to bat, it’s just another guy in the lineup you can cheer a little harder than you might other teammates,” Flanagan said.
“Any time that I think Bryce maybe needs a mound visit, I know that I don’t need to go out there and I know Josh is going to be able to go out there and talk to him. If he needs to make him laugh, he can make him laugh, if he needs him to get him to focus, he can do that,” Pufall added.
“It’s kind of like having a big brother here that I know so well. He’s always been there for me,” Hukriede said.