Brandi Heath has played third base most of her softball career. From travel ball through early high school, it’s the only position she’s known.
But when it became obvious she was not going to play it her senior year at Center Grove, she had a tough decision to make: embrace a new, lesser role or give up varsity softball.
Fortunately for the Trojans, she embraced a new role.
One of the top hitters on one of the state’s top-hitting teams, Heath is the Trojans’ designated player. Although she seldom plays in the field, she bats every game and is a major reason why Center Grove is positioned for a run at the state championship.
“She’s contributed in a huge way,” said coach Russ Milligan, who has guided the Trojans to four state titles.
“It’s kids like that who are willing to take a lesser role and perform at an exceptional level in that role that puts you a little bit over that edge from being a very good team to being a great team.”
Ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, Center Grove is 26-2 heading into today’s Bedford-North Lawrence Regional semifinal against Decatur Central (19-10).
Powered in part by a prolific offense, the Trojans hit .409 as a team and have three players with batting averages above .400.
Heath is one of those players. Fifth in the batting order, she hits .413 and has driven in 26 runs in 92 at-bats.
She has seven doubles and two triples, has scored 23 runs and is lauded as the Trojans’ best base-runner.
Yet she prides herself on being a leader, especially when her teammates are in the field.
“I try to keep the dugout up all the time,” said Heath, a two-year varsity player.
“I feel like if everybody is up in the dugout, I feel like we’re going to succeed, no matter what.”
Before the season, Heath did a lot of thinking about whether she wanted to rejoin the team or not.
Primarily a designated player her junior year, her objective was to be the starting third baseman her senior year.
Problem was, the Trojans had an equally qualified candidate in senior Victoria Boyer, a close friend who wound up earning the position in a razor-thin competition.
Milligan recalled the conversation he had with Heath when the dust settled.
“I sat her down and said, ‘Look, I’m glad you’re here,’ because she is a good softball player, ‘but I’m not going to promise you anything. I can’t promise you that you’re going to play third at all. I can’t promise that you’re going to play DP the whole way through,’” Milligan said.
“With all that being said, she took all that to heart, came out for the right reasons, wanted to be with her teammates, wanted to do something for the team and be a productive member of our team.”
As the numbers reflect, Heath has excelled on the production front. And she has no problem at all with her role.
She enjoys it.
“Obviously I’m not playing the same position that I once was, but I’ve grown to like what I do for the team with hitting and everything,” said Heath, who — when the Trojans are in the field — stays as engaged in the dugout as she would if she were on third base.
She can frequently be heard voicing encouragement to senior pitcher Abbey Pratt.
“I just try to mainly focus on each pitch,” Heath said.
“I’m cheering Abbey on and making sure I’m in the game more instead of just looking around, so when it’s time to hit, I’m ready.”
Heath has cheerfully answered the call all season. So have other teammates who’ve flourished in less-glorified roles. It’s why the Trojans’ season-long goal of a state championship is very much in reach.
A pair of victories on today will put it at their fingertips.
“It’s the unsung heroes,” Milligan said.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who are doing the right things for the team and not worrying about how much they’re (playing) or getting their names in the paper, and Brandi is the biggest one of those.”
Name: Brandi Heath
High school: Center Grove
Position: Designated player
Varsity experience: Two years
Season hitting stats: Has a .413 average in 92 at-bats; has seven doubles, two triples and 23 runs
Favorite TV show: “Grey’s Anatomy”
Favorite movie: The “Fast & Furious” franchise
College plans: Will attend nursing school at IUPUI
Parents: Bruce and Donna Heath
What: Class 4A Softball Regional
Where: Bedford North Lawrence High School
Semifinals: 11 a.m., Center Grove (26-2) vs. Decatur Central (19-10); Roncalli (26-8) vs. Floyd Central (27-6)
Championship: 7 p.m.
Admission: $6 per session, $9 both sessions