Featured Athlete
Kathryn Brown
Kathryn Brown
Softball
April 28, 2014

The Bees, and senior pitcher Kathryn Brown, will enter Thursday's Midwest Collegiate Conference Softball Tournament first round game with something to prove.

A year ago, St. Ambrose won the MCC regular season title and advanced to the tournament championship round, but one win from the crown, the team lost a pair of one-run games to Grand View. The losses kept the Bees from the league's automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.

The results were even more difficult for Brown, who was forced to watch from the dugout with a broken finger suffered just a week earlier while fielding a ball hit back up the middle in a game against William Penn.

The injury prematurely ended a fantastic season for the transfer from Heartland Community College. Brown was 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA and was rolling at the end of the year as SAU won each of the last eight games in which Brown appeared.

This year things are slightly different. The Bees aren't the favorites and are flying slightly under the radar after finishing third in the MCC with a 15-8 conference mark.

But more importantly, this season Brown, the team's lone senior, will take her turn in the circle at the MCC Tournament.

"Last year was hard because we did so well," said the right hander from Bloomington, Ill. "And then that last game... if only I would have been healthy. And maybe I wouldn't have pitched well and it wouldn't have mattered, but maybe it could have been a different ending."

Back from injury, Brown has had a tremendous 2014 campaign. She has 15 wins and three saves and her 145 strikeouts are just 16 shy of matching Jenna Harshbarger's single-season record of 161 set in 2012. The conference has taken notice, twice naming her the MCC Pitcher of the Week.

Unlike 2013 when Brown was one of six pitchers who threw double-digit innings, this season she is half of a two-person staff, which also includes freshman Sam Flerlage.

"There is more pressure having only two pitchers because we both have to do well. There is no one else there to bail either one of us out so we have to get out of it ourselves," Brown said. "Sam had some early troubles because she was thinking too much. I told her not to pitch any differently than she had in the past. Just keep it on the black no matter who you are playing. "Then I had a horrible week and she reminded me, 'Don't you remember what you told me?'

"I think we both felt the pressure at the beginning of the year but once we got in a routine, we've done well."

The postseason begins Thursday with St. Ambrose and Mount Mercy hosting Viterbo and Clarke. The two winners will join Grand View and regular-season champion William Penn in Oskaloosa, Iowa, this weekend for the MCC Final Four Tournament. The four-team double-elimination draw will again determine the league's representative at the NAIA National Tournament.

Brown, an NAIA Scholar-Athlete who has an internship lined up at the Governor's Office in Illinois this summer before enrolling at DePaul Law School in the fall, hopes she has several more starts yet to make.

"I think our chances are pretty good this year," Brown said. "We've seen all the pitchers at least two times, and when Sam and I are on our A-games, we can beat anyone."