Megan Brown describes her high school athletics experience as if it were a Shakespeare play, where the softball field is her stage and each year she must play a different part.
She’s done it all, too, from the pitcher’s circle to the infield corners, and from center field to the middle of the Tigers lineup.
The one role she’s learned to relish, however, is that of a leader.
“I was performing at a high level very early on, and my dad told me, ‘You’re going into that role where everyone will be looking to you. They are going to look to you when things go bad, and they are going to look to you when things go good,’” said Brown, a four-year varsity starter. “Having to do that so young, I think, has helped me tremendously to be a better teammate.
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“Leading isn’t just telling people what to do, it’s setting the right example by how you talk, how you handle yourself and how you prepare.”
For the second time in three seasons, Brown has been voted by the metro-east’s Class 1A and 2A softball coaches as the BND Small-School Player of the Year. She’ll be in Carbondale this fall to begin her collegiate career with the Southern Illinois University Salukis.
At the plate, Brown hit .494 and was tied for fourth in the region with nine home runs. She had a slugging percentage of .975, an on-base percentage of .606, and she scored 40 runs while driving in 26.
In the pitcher’s circle, she led the Tigers with a 13-5 record and 1.79 ERA. Her 115 strikeouts in 105 innings pitched were more than two-and-a-half times the number of batters she walked.
There is a lot to be said about what other people think about the players that come from our program. I tried to make a big deal of that to the younger players. We want to leave behind a program that everybody wants to be a part of.
Megan Brown, BND Small School Player of the Year
In the dugout, she pushed a refreshed roster that included 11 underclassmen to another 20 win season and Dupo’s fourth-straight regional championship.
Still, she insists, the Player of the Year distinction is as reflective of the program’s recent success as it is her own statistical line.
“There is a lot to be said about what other people think about the players that come from our program,” said Brown, who hopes someday to coach at Dupo. “I tried to make a big deal of that to the younger players. We want to leave behind a program that everybody wants to be a part of.
“We’re good now, but I want them to be good in 10 years, too.”
Brown specifically credits senior catcher Stormy Sellers, who stepped into a position she’d never played before, as well as freshmen pitchers Regan Carner and Holly Wilson for the strides they took as the season progressed.
“It’s their turn to set the example now,” she said.
Brown also said her senior classmates’ emergence helped her relax after what she felt was a sub-par effort her junior season.
Third baseman Taylor Esmon emerged with a .465 average and team highs in doubles (17), home runs (13) and RBIs (45). Shortstop Skylure Barlow also was a key part of the lineup with her .430 average and four home runs.
Both joined Brown on the BND All-Area Team for Class 1A and 2A.
“I did put a lot of pressure on myself. My teammates were always there, though,” she said. “Skylure, Esmon ... everybody did their part, and it took a lot off of me. It took me until late last year to realize that I don’t have to try to do it all. There are nine people in a lineup for a reason.”
It’s not that there haven’t been some challenges in Brown’s four years. There was the disappointment of losing the class 2A state championship game last year and the Tigers’ failure to advance beyond the sectionals this season.
On the balance, though, there has been more triumph and tragedy in this masterpiece. Brown’s four-year batting average is .481 (173 for 360), and she’s belted 22 home runs.
Leading isn’t just telling people what to do, it’s setting the right example by how you talk, how you handle yourself and how you prepare.
She counts her return to the pitcher’s circle in 2017 as the greatest of her achievements.
After pitching 194 innings as a freshman, Brown began experiencing pain in her throwing shoulder. There’s no structural damage, but the chronic and painful tendinitis to her biceps tendon put her pitching future in doubt.
Former coach Greg Pennock agreed with parents Alice and Joe Brown that she should shut down the affected arm for at least her sophomore season. She pitched just 21 innings in relief as a junior.
“I had five, six opinions from doctors who told me I might have to shut it down for good,” she said. “But I’ve told people two years ago I was going to be back in the circle because I was determined to do it.”
A cortisone shot and sport-specific therapy under the direction of the SIU team doctor helped Brown make it back inside the circle as a senior. Determination spilled over with emotion when she and the Tigers closed out a 5-4 regional championship win over East Alton-Wood River.
“It was in that moment that I really felt like I made it back, which is why I think I had a hard time controlling the tears,” she said. “People were saying I would never pitch again or that I wouldn’t be recruited. I know who they are, and I think I showed them that they shouldn’t assume what I can or can’t do.”