MacArthur's Brown a student of hitting
Kristen Brown knew this particular batter better than anyone but never considered having to actually pitch to her.
She stood in silence, deep in thought, wondering how she'd approach pitching to one of the most feared hitters in Long Island softball.
"That's like a trick question," she said. "I know what I would throw to other batters. But what would I throw to myself?"
Brown is in her fifth season on MacArthur's varsity team, yet many opposing pitchers still have similar thoughts: "What would I throw to her?" or, more often, "What should I have thrown to her?"
But what would happen if Brown, one of the premier power pitchers and best power hitters of the past few seasons, was put in that predicament and had to face herself?
"My curveball is my best pitch, so I'd throw outside," she said, "then maybe come inside and jam myself."
But miss inside and Brown the hitter would be waiting to capitalize on it.
"I'd be looking for a pitch on the inside corner, I love driving that pitch," she said. "Against a pitcher like myself, I would just be confident at the plate and have a strong mentality thinking that I can do anything."
Over the years, she's shown that she can do anything -- both at the plate and in the circle.
Her quick hands at the plate allow her to wait until the ball gets deep into the zone before deciding what to do with it. She feasts on the inside pitch but has expanded her plate coverage this season and is now driving the outside pitch the opposite way, making her a more dangerous hitter and tougher out.
Brown is hitting .617 with 40 RBIs and has developed in to one of the best pure power hitters on Long Island. Still with two games remaining, she has 13 home runs, which according to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, ties the single-season record set in 2007 by Samantha Eimers of Ripley.
"She's gotten better each and every year by leaps and bounds," MacArthur coach Bobby Fehrenbach said. "She's right up there with the best hitters in Long Island, and I think if you were to ask people, they would agree that she's really stepping up into a class by herself."
Called up to play shortstop and the outfield as an eighth-grader, she went on to become the ace of the pitching staff as a freshman. She then went 12-6 with a 1.51 ERA as a sophomore and led the Generals to the county championship series. During the fall of her junior year, she suffered a torn ACL while playing volleyball but returned to have a career year in the circle, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA despite pitching in Conference I-AA, the county's top ability-based division.
She has pitched in only four games so far this season, going 3-1, simply because MacArthur has two other very capable starters in Ashley Massoni and Briana Lombardo, and keeping Brown's athleticism and glove at shortstop, her natural position that she'll play in college, enables MacArthur to field its best defensive lineup.
Shortly after her sophomore season, Brown committed to the University of North Carolina, which is currently ranked 26th in the nation. But it wasn't her bat that caught the eye of recruiters, it was her glove.
"Kristen is going to give us a spark in our infield," said North Carolina coach Donna Papa, who has guided the Tar Heels to the NCAA Tournament in nine of the past 10 seasons.
"She is a true shortstop in terms of her range and her ability to field in the hole. That's what attracted us initially."
Yet it's undoubtedly been Brown's bat that has led the Generals to a 15-2 record and makes them the favorite to win their first county title since 2004.
"She's very aggressive and very strong for her size," said Brown's hitting coach Angel Mangual, who also runs the Team Long Island travel program. "For someone who swings hard and drives the ball hard, she doesn't strike out a lot. She has all of the tools."
So back to that hypothetical matchup: Brown steps to the plate, gets into her slightly crouched righthanded stance . . . Brown winds up and delivers that nasty curve.
"The hitter," Brown said without hesitation. "Kristen Brown the hitter is winning. I'm so confident in my hitting that I try to think that nobody can beat me."
Not even Kristen Brown.