With two outs in the bottom of the third inning of game two on Saturday, Leah Brown stepped up to the batter’s box. She spun her bat in her hands and then tapped it to both sides of the plate as she always does. She then proceeded to rip the 2-0 pitch through the hole into left field for her fourth hit of the day; seemingly just another day at the ballpark for Brown. But this one was special. She entered the day with 210 hits, three shy of tying the school record for hits in a career. She was now alone at the top of the list.
Of course, this is nothing new for Brown. In the past few weeks, she has broken school records for runs (140), home runs (34), runs batted in (157) and total bases (380). She also has now ended the regular season with a .735 slugging percentage, which will be good for another school record if it holds up through the post-season. And it most likely will, as she has a 35 point lead in that category.
“Rounding the bases was really emotional and it was just a cool feeling,” Brown said about her record-breaking home run.
She also said the home run record is a memory that will stick with her beyond her time at UMHB.
A lot of players have the ability to have a great season or two throughout their career. But the consistency that Brown has shown in her four years at UMHB has been the defining characteristic of her career. Her coaches and teammates alike count on her throughout the season and time and time again she is able to deliver. It has clearly been a remarkable four-year career for Brown and her coaches are going to miss having their All-American in the lineup every game.
“The thing that’s impressive about her is that she’s been so consistent,” said Head Coach Larry Hennig. “She’s never slowed down in trying to get better; never slowed down working in practice. I don’t want to think about next year.”
Assistant Coach Melissa Maler has only been coaching Brown for the past two seasons. But she was aware of Brown’s greatness before she even got to college. Maler was a coach at West High School before coming to UMHB. Her team played against Crawford High School, where Brown attended, every year.
“We played her the whole time I was at West, her four years of high school ball. So I knew she was a great player,” Maler said. “She’s by far one of the best hitters that I’ve ever been able to coach.”
Dominance at the plate has certainly made her one of the best in the country. But, Hennig suggests that she is just as good in other aspects of the game as well.
“She’s always been a good hitter, but the defense is the thing that’s really put her over the top to be an All-American and she doesn’t get a lot of credit for that,” Hennig said.
With her name in the record books, at least statistically, you could say that Brown is the best offensive player to ever play at UMHB, and her coaches agree.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Hennig said. “There’s never been anybody that’s put up the kind of numbers she has and done it for four years.”
Now that she has played her final game at Dee Dillon Field, Brown can look back at her amazing career with a lot of fond memories and some great relationships to show for it. After the game in which she broke the hits record, she was not concerned with the records and accomplishments she achieved. She was just happy to have been on the field one more time with her teammates.
“I’d say better than I imagined,” Brown said of her career. “You don’t know how close you’re going to get with your teammates. They’re more like sisters now.”