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Nadolny keeps piling homers on to her state record, leading L’Anse Creuse to Red Hawk Invitational title, but isn’t merely a slugger: ‘She’s a 5-tool player’

By: Matthew B. Mowery, April 28, 2019, 5:00 pm

TROY — Better than anyone, Brooke Nadolny knows how to trot around the bases when the ball goes over the fence.

But when the fences are 320 feet away, like they were for the championship game of the RedHawk Invitational at Troy’s Flynn Park on Saturday, the state’s all-time home run leader is perfectly fine turning on the afterburners and going for an inside-the-park homer, as well.

The L’Anse Creuse senior added a pair to her state home run record total on the day, and earned a pair of wins in the circle, as the Lancers defended their tournament title, finishing it with a 9-6 win over Davison.

The homer Nadolny hit against Country Day in the first game of the day was more conventional, as it cleared the fences at tournament host Troy Athens’ home field. Her second one a little harder, rocketing over the Davison left fielder’s head, and rattling around at the fence.

“It was weird sprinting, because you’re used to the 200-foot fence,” Nadolny said. “I always run at full speed, obviously, but at some point, it kind of clicks ‘I gotta really book it right now, to put another one on my record.’”

Nadonly came into the season needing just one home run to tie the state record for career home runs (55) set last year by Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Julia Kennedy. She passed that milestone two weeks ago, and has just continued to pile the home runs on, further extending the state record. 

The inside-the-parker was her seventh this season, giving her 61.

With that total, Nadolny is now in a tie with Holly Currie of Pisgah, Alabama (2000-03) for third place all time in high school history, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) record book. Pisgah’s Shelby Holley (2008-11) is second with 72, while El Paso (Texas) Eastlake’s Kasey Flores set the all-time national record of 75 last year.

Nadolny has said before that the full implications of her feat haven’t really sunk in. 

“I mean, I like beating the new (state) record, really. There’s never really a point where I want it to end, because I just want to keep playing with my team, keep adding on to my record, hopefully achieving something no one’s ever done,” Nadolny said, noting — with a laugh — that she’s not yet tired of the questions. “I mean, it’s kinda cool. It’s like you’re kinda like kinda famous. I’m like ‘This is as famous as I’m ever going to get, because I can’t sing.’”

The notoriety of her accomplishment has spread a bit, though, as Nadolny said she can tell other teams are being … a bit more cautious, perhaps.

“No one really says it on the other teams, but I can kind of feel it, sometimes that they know,” she said.

Sometimes, the field itself is the biggest challenge, like it was at Flynn Park. 

“Yeah, because there’s no way I’m hitting it out at 320. One time, it actually happened (at the Stars tournament), it was 300. The inning before she (coach Lisa Downey) goes, ‘Guys, stop swinging for the fences. Nobody can hit it out but me.’ It went out,” Nadolny laughed, remembering. “On that one, I actually stopped at third, because I didn’t believe it was out. No way I was going to hit 300.”

Sometimes, the insurmountable … isn’t.

 

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When Nadolny finished circling the bases in the sixth inning, it put the Lancers (11-0) up 8-1. Sydney Simon’s RBI single four batters later made it 9-1 — a nearly insurmountable lead.

The Lancers would need every run, as the Cardinals put together a five-run rally — ignited by a two-run double by Emily Meyer, an RBI double by Lily Brown — in the top of the seventh to chase L’Anse Creuse starter Jenny Diener, forcing Downey go to back to Nadolny, who’d already pitched twice in the tournament.

Davison got another run on an error, before Nadolny could get the final two outs to close out the win.

“They had fight in them. I was, I guess, proud to see that they didn’t give up, they kept fighting, because that’s the spirit you need as a team, to keep coming back,” Nadolny said. “Don’t let anything keep you down: You could be down 7-0, and come back to win it.”

An early lead, helped by a bases-clearing double by Ava Ferrarelli and an RBI double by Jaycie LaValley, helped make it easier on the rookie starter. The Lancers added a run in the third on LaValley’s RBI single and two more on Rylee Thomas’ single in the fourth to make it 7-0, before the Cardinals got on the board in the fifth.

“I didn’t really want to pitch her (again) today, but I really didn’t want to lose this. But it’s just when I said, ‘What do you think? Do you want to get these last two outs?’ She said, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’ Well, that’s all I needed to hear,” Downey said. “Great boost for the team. We’re 11-0 right now. We got to the championship game, and I threw a ninth-grader — it’s her second game she’s ever pitched on varsity — and the girls, they didn’t act any different than if Brooke was pitching. They went out there saying ‘We’re going to win.’”

Part of that is a testament to the confidence that the team has in Nadolny to help get them through rough patches like the seventh inning Saturday.

“She rises to the occasion. She just loves to play, and doesn’t really think about the moment. … She’s been part of that culture since she was in ninth grade. We’ve had very good teams, even before she was a freshman — they just keep carrying it on. She just sort of brings that sense of confidence that ‘This is how we do stuff, and this is what we’re going to do.’ She’s the leader this year, and the kids just sort of get in line. Not only does she do so much on the field, the off-the-field stuff is sometimes just as important, if you want to have a winning season. She does all that, also. She’s like my right hand,” Downey said. 

“It’s really a great group, great chemistry. The kids are great, the parents are great. She’s just one of the kids when she’s with them. It’s not like she’s any different. When she’s on the field, she stands out.”

 

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From the ‘ooohs’ from the Davison cheering section behind the plate, elicited by Nadolny’s first warm-up pitches, you could tell the velocity stood out.

But that’s been something that’s developed throughout her high school career.

This is the first year she’s been the No. 1 pitcher for the Lancers. Last year, she pitched in a little less than half the team’s games, as the No. 2 hurler.

“Last year, she started throwing really hard. She might be throwing a little harder this year. She’s improved her command, it’s gotten better. We’re still working on that. She’s getting more confidence with off-speed stuff, stuff like that. That’s the big difference between last year and this year,” Downey said. “In ninth grade, she was really small, and an OK pitcher. Tenth grade, she was a good pitcher, but nowhere close to our No. 1 pitcher. She’s kind of just grown into it, and she loves to pitch. So she’s invested a lot of time into it in the last few years, and she’s gotten a lot better at it. … 

“The power you can see when she hits, and you can see when she pitches — it’s all the timing. And she throws really hard. So you can see the power that she uses, the explosion of her legs, the timing of her arms and legs together — the hitting and pitching motion — just develops a lot of power.”

Two wins on Saturday — a one-hit shutout of Detroit Country Day in a 9-0 win, and a 14-strikeout performance in a 6-3 win over Rochester — pushed Nadolny’s record this season to 9-0, and her career record to 29-10.

Downey isn’t sure exactly what Wayne State will use Nadolny for next season, but she certainly believes she could be a two-way player at the college level, too. 

“They haven’t ruled anything out. I think it might depend on who they’ve recruited, and what they need. I know she’ll hit — that’s her thing. But I feel like she could definitely pitch there. It might be developmental, because she’s a late-bloomer, pitching,” the coach said. “She’s like the complete package. She pitches, plays shortstop, she’s a great fielder, she hits line-drive base hits, she runs the bases well, she’s got power. Major League Baseball, when you’re looking at drafts, she’s a five-tool player.”

 

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Standing just 5-foot-3 when she joined the Lancers as a freshman, there wasn’t a lot about Nadolny that stood out at first glance. Certainly she didn’t look like someone who would become the state’s all-time home run record-holder. 

“I didn’t even know about these records, to be honest with you. You know what I mean? I never looked at them. But she hit six home runs as a freshman — and that’s a lot of home runs for a ninth grader, first year on varsity, being small — I knew she was good. She was our starting second baseman, because we had a senior at short who’d been there for years. And then, as the season wore on, I was like ‘Man, this kid’s a great second baseman — man, this kid’s a great hitter,’” Downey said. “And then between ninth and 10th grade, she got so big. She still, even in ninth grade, hit the ball hard, very explosive — to ever imagine that you’d have a kid that would hit the most home runs in the history of the state.”

Yes, Nadolny grew but it’s not like she grew to 6-foot-2 — she stands about 5-7 now — so she still doesn’t fit that mental image of a power hitter, like some of the first home run champions in the state’s history.

“They just clubbed the ball, overpowered it. Whereas now you’re just seeing really good athletes. Brooke’s just a really good athlete. It’s all timing and leverage. Her hands are so fast — just at everything. If you watch her do short-hops, anything you do, just has lightning-fast hands,” said Downey, who herself played high school softball in Michigan. “Sees the ball, great timing, and then confidence — and how can you not be confident when you’ve been as successful as her? She gets in that batter’s box, and she just knows she’s gonna …”

And Nadonly has had success every step of the way.

She hit .412 as a freshman (6 HRs, 26 RBI).

She hit .583 as a sophomore (22 HRs, 57 RBI).

She hit .513 as a junior (26 HR, 58 RBI).

Through 11 games as a senior, she’s hitting .750 with 26 runs scored, 19 runs batted in, seven homers and 10 doubles.

She’s no stranger to the record book, either.

Her 22 home runs in 2017 were tied with Muskegon Mona Shores’ Taylor Dew for the single-season state record, bettering the previous record of 20 by Farmington Hills Mercy’s Abby Krzywiecki a year earlier.

Nadolny’s 26 homers in 2018 were tied with Schoolcraft’s Lydia Goble for the new state single-season record.

She also shares the record for the most RBI in an inning, with seven, tied with Tawas’ Abbie Anderson, and is one of six players in a six-way tie for second place on that list with six. 

“We expect her, every time she’s up, she’s going to drill the ball somewhere. Not necessarily a home run, just drill it somewhere. That’s how confident we are. So when she doesn’t get a hit, it’s like ‘Whoah, that’s shocking. What’s wrong with you?’” Downey joked. 

“But she’s gotten very, very confident — a mature confidence, not cocky. She respects her opponent, things like that. But she gets that bat in her hands, and she expects she’s going to be successful in that batter’s box. That’s the key to hitting for everybody. A lot of kids aren’t good hitters, because they lack that confidence in the game. They look great in practice, they have great swings — they might have as good a swing as her — but they don’t have the mental savvy to be a high-level player. It’s how you handle things mentally.”

By the end of her senior season, Nadolny may have buried the home run record, put it out of reach for a good while.

She just wants to keep the roll going as long as she can.

“I definitely hit me that I don’t want to graduate. I’ll miss high school so much, and I want to keep playing on this team. I don’t want to lose. I want to keep going,” she said of her senior season. “Some people are like ‘I want to graduate, and go to college.’ I want to go to college, and start new things, new adventures in my life, but I just don’t want high school to end, because I’ve had so much fun, in the softball aspect of it.”