On paper, Victoria Brown's decision to continue her softball career at Smith College (Mass.) doesn't make much sense.
The ace pitcher for Linganore High School's softball team received interest from Virginia Wesleyan (29-11 last season) and Franklin & Marshall (22-13-1), teams with records considerably better than Smith's (1-29). Even Washington & Jefferson (7-22), another interested team, fared much better than Smith, which hasn't finished with a winning record since 2006 — three coaches ago.
Linganore coach Andrea Poffinberger distinctly remembers Brown explaining her unconventional choice.
“Poff, I decided on Smith. I know it's maybe not the best softball program around, but they have a great biology program,” Brown said.
“Maybe you go up there, and you turn that program around,” Poffinberger said. “Maybe you're that go-to that everybody's going to look to, and maybe you're going to be the start of something turning around.
“She just kind of smiled and then went, in her own little Tori fashion — like I said, very genuine, very modest — she said, ‘Yeah, you know, maybe I will. Maybe I won't. But I'm going to go up there, play softball, have a good time, do my best,'” Poffinberger said. “And that's what she'll do.”
In her fourth year of coaching Brown, Poffinberger would know. Brown is 5-2 with a 3.42 earned run average and 36 strikeouts with just eight walks this season.
“It's hard to explain how genuine of a person Tori is,” Poffinberger said. “To me, as far as pitchers go, you oftentimes, you coach the prima donnas. They're sort of upbeat. They're sort of easily shaken. With Tori, I don't see that.”
To Tori, that stems from her parents.
“My dad's pretty calm and collected most of the time, especially in stressful situations, and I think I saw that,” said Brown, who's also hitting .472 with a .722 slugging percentage. “My mom has always been there for me, to pat me on the back when I needed it. So, I've been just reassured throughout my games that I was doing OK and that it could all work out for me.”
Her father's serenity was particular evident when Brown broke her left arm while playing softball as a sophomore.
“My mom, being the mother she is, tends to fly off the handle sometimes, but it's all being the motherly instinct,” Brown said. “But my dad will always know what to say to calm her down, and he'll take me to doctor's appointments and stuff and know exactly what questions to ask, which someone might miss being in the moment.”
That was the third time Brown broke the arm. She fell off her scooter in second grade and flipped over her bike in third grade.
“They say that when the bone fixes itself, it should heal stronger than it was before,” said Brown who initially wanted to practice osteology, the study of bones. “So, it's pretty strong now.”
She still plans on becoming pre-med — her biggest reason for choosing Smith — but she's now interested in pediatrics or oncology.
That's not to say she loves all forms of life, though. Brown is terrified of sharks and says that comes from associating Monstro — the whale that ate Pinocchio — with sharks at a young age. She's fine with swimming in the ocean, but every year, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel has her running for cover.
“I've just accepted it,” Brown said. “There's no way I'm going to get over sharks.”
Luckily for Smith, Brown hasn't accepted her future team's struggles quite so readily.