Playing softball in the Midwest isn’t easy. Last year, righthanded pitcher Brooke Mannon’s high school team in West Jefferson, Ohio played just 20 games because of numerous rainouts. It’s one of many reasons she gave her verbal commitment to Caitlin Lowe and the Arizona Wildcats.
“I’m locked in a barn for like three months in Ohio,” Mannon said. “It’s freezing. It’s cold. And I get to go out there (to Arizona) and play softball all year round.”
Who she gets to play softball for is a pretty big deal, too. The accomplishments of Lowe, Taryne Mowatt-McKinney, and Lauren Lappin were big selling points for the three-sport athlete from just outside Columbus.
“I get to play under three coaches that played at the highest level possible,” Mannon said. “Two Olympians and two two-time national champs. That’s great. You can’t find that hardly anywhere.”
As for Lowe, Mannon was impressed by both how nice her future head coach was and by her determination.
“She’s a very open person,” Mannon said about Lowe. “Very confident. Wants a good team. Wants to win. That is something I see in myself. I also want to be very confident. I want to win games, and I want to go as far as I possibly can.”
Mannon doesn’t shrink from the expectations of putting on an Arizona uniform and going as far as she possibly can. She is attracted by the idea that the Wildcats expect to be playing in Oklahoma City at the end of every single season.
“It's not like ‘oh, yeah, we made it,’” she said. ‘It’s like, ‘Good, you’re where you’re supposed to be.’ That’s awesome.”
Watching them put it into practice this season under Lowe was exciting.
“I watched every single game,” she said. “They did amazing. I was wearing my Arizona shirt. The whole family was out there on the couch just sitting there watching.”
Mannon will arrive as a well-rounded athlete who has competed in soccer, basketball, and softball in high school. While she won’t be playing soccer her senior year, she said that she’s been playing multiple sports since peewee soccer and tee-ball days.
“I like being an athlete, kind of able to do multiple things,” she said. “I’m not just a pitcher. I can hit. I can run. I can play multiple positions, outfield mainly. That’s kind of a plus with me.”
It’s something that runs in the family. Younger siblings Jenna and Colt also play sports, making the family’s life busy as they travel to events around the Midwest and Southeast. During her travel team’s recent trip to the Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series in Indianapolis, Brooke and 13-year-old Jenna were able to play together on Ohio Hawks U16 - Harbold, finishing sixth in the tier-two U18 division.
It was a challenging way to finish up the summer travel season. Mannon ended her summer with a 0.78 ERA in 89.2 innings of travel ball. She also got to spend a little time with future teammate and fellow pitcher Ryan Maddox, whose OC Batbusters U18 - Stith won the U18 division in Indianapolis.
“We talked a little bit,” Mannon said. “We were just talking about pitching and our teams. We didn’t get a lot of time. It was nice getting to know her a little bit before we actually get to play together.”
Now, it’s time to get ready for her final year in high school. Mannon describes her pitching style as “aggressive” with a desire to get ahead in the count.
“I also throw fast, which helps a lot,” she said with a laugh.
Mannon has some specific goals in mind for the season as far as her personal development. She knows that speed is not all there is to pitching, especially at the highest level of the sport, so she’s working on other things this season.
“It’s movement and placement, being very, very precise with those,” she said. “That would be very helpful and will help me get prepared for the future.”
Last season, she appeared in every one of the 20 games West Jefferson High was able to play. She went 18-1 and got one save, ending with a 0.34 ERA in 124 IP. She struck out 269 of the 445 batters she faced and walked 20.
Off the field, Mannon has big plans, too. She told WBNS TV in Columbus that she carries a 4.0 GPA and wants to work to keep that. When she arrives in Tucson, she plans to major in business and go for an MBA after her undergrad years. The Eller College of Management made Arizona an attractive option for those academic pursuits. After completing her master's, she hopes to continue on to become a lawyer.
Now, she just has to brave one more Ohio winter.