May 12, 2010
Lobo Softball -- at Lobo Field
Thursday: Vs. UNLV, 5 p.m.
Friday: Vs. San Diego State, 6 p.m.
Saturday: Vs. San Diego State, 1 p.m.
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, stats, recap
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Before we focus in on one of Erin Brandow's favorite moments on a softball field, let's make one thing perfectly clear. This soft-spoken senior is a good kid, a nice Lobo.
She would give you the jersey off her back and probably wash it for you first.
But that doesn't mean she doesn't protect the plate with the same ferocity Lobo Carmen Messina might show going after a quarterback.
There is nothing soft about Brandow when she straps on the catcher's gear. It brings out the linebacker in her - which is what she was for a few years before turning to softball. We'll get back to that. First, Brandow's moment.
It happened last season against Syracuse. It wasn't a Syracuse thing, more the challenge and the collision of the moment that gave Brandow her rush. It's a play a catcher lives for like a pitcher might dream about striking out the No. 4 batter with the bases jammed.
On this day at Lobo Field, a Syracuse player rounded third and came charging down the line with the plate as her destination. Only one problem there - Brandow was standing in the way, with the ball.
"She was dead a couple of feet up the line," said the UNM senior. "But she came in anyway. I turned and tagged her pretty good in her chest. It knocked her flat on her back.
"Her helmet flew off. My teammates got all excited. It was just fun."
Again, we emphasize that Brandow doesn't have a mean streak. She just likes doing her job. She also has a background of physical contact at a level most women athletes never see.
She played Little League with the boys until she was 12. "I moved to softball because, in my mind, they weren't putting me on the all-star teams because I was a girl," she said.
She played YAFL (youth football) for four years. She even tried her luck on the Sandia High offensive and defensive lines her freshman year in high school.
"I was probably the same size as most of the guys that year, but they hit their growth spurt and I didn't," said Brandow. "They got bigger and stronger. I wasn't fast enough and didn't have the skill sets to play another position, so it was time to quit."
That gave Brandow the opportunity to hone her skills behind the plate for Sandia. There, she earned all-district honors, played in the North-South All-Star game, helped the Matadors to the runner-up spot in state as a senior.
She had a chance to leave New Mexico to play college ball, but wanted to stay close to friends and family. "I'm a home body," said Brandow. "I'm really close to my family and it was too hard to think about being away from them for four years."
Brandow was a walk-on at UNM under Lobo coach Ty Singleton.
"Erin has been nothing but a pleasure to coach because of her attitude on and off the field," said Singleton. "Her work ethic is second to none and she puts her team and her teammates before anything else.
"Her leadership style is to serve the team and its needs the best way and every way she can."
Brandow probably is enjoying her best hitting year as a Lobo, but injuries have limited her catching duties and given her more time at first base. Of course, she misses the physical aspect that comes with the catcher's gear and an aggressive runner.
"I don't know what it is, but I love when somebody comes in and there is a collision at the plate," she said. "I'm not out to hurt the other person. It's just such a dramatic play and it is a huge momentum stopper for an offense, if you get that out. It's a huge rush for me.
"I've never been afraid to get hit. I'm not very aggressive off the field, but there is something about being on the field. I don't know what it is."
What it is, is that Brandow likes contact. Maybe it's the opposite side of her soft nature trying to work its way out for a couple of moments. She first went behind the plate when she was 11, thinking about contact.
"Our regular catcher got hurt and coach asked if anyone else wanted to catch," said Brandow. "I thought it would be a little like football. I'd have gear on and if somebody came at me, I'd get to hit them."
The Lobos' 2010 season ends this weekend and it marks Brandow's final game. But maybe only as a player. She hopes to go into coaching.
"I've really gotten into all the aspects and strategies of the game at the college level," she said. "There is offense and defense and within those two areas there are a bunch of different components you have to master.
"At the college level, I like the strategy that comes into play. I don't think a lot of people realize the strategy involved in this game. It's just something I'd like to keep on doing."