With one swing of the bat, Brittnee Rossi let out weeks of frustration with an emphatic stomp of home plate.
Rossi, a 2017 San Benito High graduate and University of Hawaii senior center fielder, homered against Cal in a March 12 tournament game and immediately started sprinting around the bases, her excitement visible as she pumped her fists.
When she got to home plate, Rossi stomped on the plate and screamed, releasing all of the pent-up emotion that had been weighing on her for the previous couple of weeks.
“Finally being an asset at the plate definitely made me feel excited,” she said. “I was struggling a lot at the plate, but that game I felt a lot more relaxed in the batter’s box. I think that was my problem, that I was not comfortable in the box for some reason. So, that was one of the biggest feelings I had when I hit that home run. And two, that hit brought my confidence back. That finally, yes, I remembered my swing and was finding my confidence again, finding my rhythm in the box. It was just a great feeling since I was in a huge slump before.”
A starter since her freshman year, the 5-foot-6 Rossi has morphed from a slap hitter to someone who has kept her speed but can now muscle up and spray hits all over the field, including the occasional one over the fence. She credits all of the strength and conditioning coaches that have helped her get bigger, stronger and faster in her time at Hawaii.
All the work in the weight room has translated directly to benefits on the field.
“It has definitely made a difference,” she said. “Back in high school, I had the smallest pants on the team. I used to slap in high school, but now I’m doing more power hitting and I can hit it far now. I definitely feel alive in the weight room and love to lift some heavy stuff. You see and feel the difference on the field and I credit the few strength and conditioning coaches here that have done a tremendous job of shaping me and getting me to be as strong as I can.”
Rossi earned Big West Conference Honorable Mention honors during her 2019 sophomore season while maintaining at least a 3.5-plus GPA, and she was awarded the 2019 NFCA Scholar-Athlete Award. The Rainbow Wahine recently played top-ranked Oklahoma twice on March 11-12, losing by scores of 11-0 and 9-0, respectively.
Despite the lopsided results, Rossi said there was nothing but positives in playing the Sooners, one of the blue bloods of college softball. Hawaii entered the week 8-10 overall and 2-1 in conference.
“It was an incredible experience to have the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the nation,” she said. “It was awesome to be able to see that type of pitching and great hitters. I was really excited to play that weekend because I knew I would get a lot of action, and seeing that kind of pitching will prepare us for conference. We want to take it all the way to become Big West champs, which is our No. 1 goal.”
Now that she’s a senior, Rossi is cherishing every moment, from each practice, weight lifting session and of course, the game competition.
“I’m trying to take it day by day and savoring every possible moment even if it’s a crappy one because my career will be done pretty soon,” she said.
Even though Rossi wanted to stay in California out of high school, Hawaii was the only four-year program that offered her a scholarship, making her decision an easy one. Turns out, it was better than she ever imagined.
“Going to Hawaii was the best decision of my life,” she said. “My parents kind of pushed me along and helped me realize going away was probably the best learning experience for me. The Hawaii culture is absolutely beautiful, the people here, the land, everything about it. Even after games we have dinners from our players’ parents, and I can tell you no other school is like that. There’s no other culture like it where people really embrace it, and I’m just happy to have been a part of it these last five years.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org