Suzy Brookshire entered her freshman season at Sacramento State University simply wanting to fit in.
“Hitting-wise I just wanted to earn respect because you don’t want to come in as a freshman and start making waves (creating drama),” said Brookshire, a 2016 San Benito High graduate. “I wanted to let my teammates know how invested I was in the team, and communicate a love for the game while sharing knowledge. It came down to my approach in the box that earned me respect.”
Brookshire not only earned respect, but opposing pitchers feared her whenever she came to the plate. The right-handed hitting outfielder either led or tied for the team lead in all of the major offensive categories, including batting average (.358), runs scored (43), hits (54), doubles (8), home runs (15), total bases (109), slugging percentage (.722), on-base percentage (.443) and a staggering OPS of 1.165.
Brookshire also became just the fourth freshman in program history to be named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association all-Pacific Region third team. She was also a first team, all-Big Sky Conference selection for a Hornets team that finished 21-28-1 overall and 10-10 in the Big Sky, good for third place.
Brookshire’s 15 home runs are the most in a single season in Sacramento State history, well ahead of the previous record of 12. Brookshire reached base safely in 42 of the 49 games she played in, including a run of 19 consecutive contests from Feb. 25 until March 25. Beyond the gaudy home run and OPS numbers, Brookshire was most proud of her consistent production throughout the season.
“I wanted to produce consistently and not have any major slumps,” she said.
Brookshire had mini slumps but never a prolonged one, a testament to her talent and work ethic. But perhaps the greatest accomplishment for Brookshire was the fact she had a terrific season despite playing in the outfield for the fist time in her career. A catcher and infielder for all of her life, Brookshire was told to take some warm-up reps in the outfield in the Hornets’ second game of the season against the University of Hawaii.
In order for the team to have its best lineup, Brookshire had to sacrifice playing her favorite positions for a new one. The transition should’ve been a tough one; however, Brookshire’s instincts for the game and willingness to learn the position made the switch a rather smooth one after the initial growing pains.
“The transition was hard at first, but I really like being out there now,” she said. “I think I adjusted well, and my teammates made it easier for me. It was a fun year playing with them.”
By the end of the season, Brookshire looked as if she had been playing left field for years, not months. In the last game of the season, she made a diving catch. In the Fresno State tournament in early February, Brookshire threw out two runners at home plate, displaying the howitzer of an arm she utilized when she prepped at San Benito High.
Brookshire, who along with Heen formed one of the greatest 1-2 punches in Balers’ history, walked 22 times and struck out 22 times, impressive numbers for a slugger at the college level. Not surprisingly, Brookshire plans on having a lot more walks than strikeouts in the years ahead.
“I wish I struck out a lot less,” she said. “I know almost every single time what pitch I struck out on. I got beat obviously, but I can learn not to get beat on those same pitches again. A lot of my strikeouts came at the beginning of the year or just getting into (the hitting) box without a plan.”
Brookshire’s adjustments and plate approach was rock solid by the end of the season.
“I looked at the spray charts in where I was hitting the ball at the beginning of the year,” she said. “The book was saying I could be had striking out on outside pitches, so I started working on that as the season went along. By the end of the year, the majority of my hits were up the middle and to the right side.”
Sacramento State opened up the season in the Paradise Classic tournament hosted by the University of Hawaii. The Hornets played the host Rainbow Wahine in their second game, a 5-0 loss. It was a special moment for Brookshire and her good friend, Heen, who were teammates for the previous four years at San Benito High.
Heen, who earned a scholarship to Hawaii, had a sensational freshman season at the Division I level—just like her former teammate.
“My coach was asking me how do I pitch to her (Heen), and I told her not to throw inside on Callee,” Brookshire said. “I told them to just throw away and outside, but one pitch went inside. Callee roped it and almost took off our first baseman’s head. When she got to first base, I got emotional just seeing her play for another team.”
Brookshire and Heen spent many years preparing for college ball, mimicking tough situations in practice.
“We might have over prepared at times, but it really helped us once we got to college,” Brookshire said.
Brookshire will spend most of the summer working out in Sacramento, where she plans on getting more explosive out of the batter’s box. It’s the summer and fall when the spring sports college athletes either improve or stay the same, and Brookshire isn’t one to be satisfied with the status quo, even though she had a record-breaking freshman season.
“There is always something to work on,” she said. “I want to come back next season better than I was before.”