South Charlotte

Athlete of the week: Freshman's return to softball is a really big hit

In Charlotte Country Day's two games against conference rival Charlotte Latin, only one player got a hit: Amelia Brown.

Brown also leads the team in stolen bases - five in seven attempts - and has two of the three extra-base hits Country Day has had all season.

Luckily for the Buccaneers, Brown has three more years of high school softball ahead of her.

The only freshman on the team, Brown, 15, leads the Bucs in batting average with .560 and has had a hit in every single game this year except one she missed because of back spasms.

"Amelia is a very confident freshman. She's confident in her ability," said coach Eric Johnson, who has been with the Bucs since 2006. "She's confident at the plate. When she's at the plate I can see that she's locked in and she wants nothing else than to get a hit and to improve her team."

But Brown almost didn't play this year.

Brown, 5-foot-5, started playing softball at 8 years old, but stopped at 11 and started playing tennis. She still played catch with her brothers - Thomas, a senior, and Joey, a fourth-grader, both at Country Day - who both play baseball, but she didn't return to the field until last year on the Bucs middle school team.

She said she came back to softball because she missed playing on a team.

"I love a team," said Brown. "It's just been really enjoyable to have that camaraderie and have that bond."

She still played tennis in the fall for the junior varsity team. In the winter, she performed in Country Day's musical "Little Shop of Horrors." She wasn't planning on playing softball in spring.

"I was originally going to just take the spring off and let myself calm down for the rest of the year," said Brown. Senior teammate Lindsey Freedman, who also was in the musical, changed Brown's mind.

"I'm glad she did," said Johnson, 33, of Brown playing this year. "I'm pretty sure she's glad she did."

Country Day doesn't have a junior varsity team and the varsity has only 10 players: five seniors, four juniors and Brown, who is by far the youngest on the team.

"I was definitely nervous because I wanted to impress the team, I wanted to impress the upperclassmen and I wanted to show that I wasn't going to be a slacker and I was going to work just as hard as them," said Brown.

She earned the starting spot in left field and made a quick impact, hitting 3 for 3 with one RBI in Country Day's 8-5 season-opening win against Covenant Day. Though Country Day struggled this year to a 2-8 season, Brown continued to perform well. She had a third of the team's total hits this year - the rest of the team batted .163 - which is why she had only five runs and two RBIs.

Johnson said he didn't expect Brown to play so well this early. "When you haven't played that much, that lack of experience will start to break down," he said. "Playing at this level, you don't play as well the first year."

Johnson added that Brown has a lot of raw talent but will need to develop in the future, improving defensively and improving her arm strength.

Brown said she struggled with understanding situations and strategies in varsity softball, but with the help - and patience - of players and coaches, she's gotten better.

"It's been a process, but I've learned," she said. "You're not perfect, but you can at least learn."

One thing Brown never had a problem with was hitting.

"I love that feeling of going up to bat," she said. "It's like a wonderful chance to prove yourself as a team player. I love that feeling of just smacking and ball and just bolting down to first base."

With five seniors leaving after this season, Country Day will be left with just five returning players and no juniors. They're hoping for some middle school players to move up or for other former players who didn't play this year to come back.

One thing is certain: Brown will be back next year.

"Now I'm here, and I'm happy that I'm here," she said. "It was a great decision and I'm going to play for the rest of my high school career."