new richmond — It’s June 5th, and only five days have passed since Wyoming East’s graduation.
There’s a chance half of the graduating class that walked across the stage in New Richmond will never set foot back on campus again, much less a week later.
Holly Brehm is one of the exceptions, and it’s no surprise.
Just hours before it’s announced she will be a first-team all-state selection for the fourth consecutive year, she’s at the softball field, working with her younger sister Savannah and father J.R.
“It’s crazy how much time I’ve spent down here the last four years,” Brehm said. “I’ve spent so many hours to get what I want in life. I’m proud of myself. It’s tough. There’s a lot of times I don’t want to be down here, and I’m missing family things, but I want to get better.
“Right now I have family in from Kentucky, but they understand it. They don’t mind that I’m not there with them because they know I’m doing things to prepare for my future. I look back and know I’ll be okay because this is what I want in life.”
For Brehm, the hard work has paid off. During her high school career she’s earned a scholarship to play Division I softball at Ohio University, taken her team to the state tournament twice — both the only trips in program history, become the first athlete in any sport in school history to earn four first-team all-state selections and now she’s earned the Register-Herald Softball Player of the Year honors, as selected by the RH sports writers.
Brehm finished her senior season for the Lady Warriors with a 21-5 record in the circle, with a 0.62 ERA, throwing nine no-hitters and one perfect game while recording a state-high 353 strikeouts. In the batters box she hit .467 with six home runs and 29 RBI.
For Brehm there are almost too many accolades to remember, and while they help reinforce the season she put together in the public eye, what she values most are the lessons and personal growth she went through on a roster composed of just 10 players.
“I used to never get nervous,” Brehm said. “The first time I ever got nervous for a game was my sophomore game when we played Shady Spring in the regional game.
“I had to overcome those nerves, especially this year. I had to be there for everyone else when they were down. I couldn’t ever get out of control with my actions and emotions. I had to teach myself quickly to get over those emotions so the rest of the team didn’t see it. If they would see that I was nervous and scared, they were going to play scared and that’s not what we needed.”
Being a leader wasn’t anything new for Brehm. As the best player on her team over the last four years, other teammates asked her for advice when they were struggling. A year after graduating five seniors, Brehm was the lone senior with four years of high school softball experience. She learned how to convey tips in a positive manner while also letting her teammates know she had confidence in them.
“My first three years I wasn’t the main leader, but I was always there to help and lead by example,” Brehm said. “Some of the older girls, when we were hitting in practice they’d ask if I could tell they’re dropping their hands or if I can tell they’re doing something else wrong. I respected them asking me that. I knew this year it would be a lot different, being the main leader.
“We had 10 players, so we knew there would be players out of position. The coaches pulled Jazz (Blankenship) off to the side and asked her if she could play second base for us during our first practice. She was uncomfortable with it, but I talked to her and reassured her she had this. I told her we weren’t asking her to make special plays, just the easy ones and I knew she could do it. I had to show everyone else that I had confidence in them and they needed to have it in themselves.”
Amongst the trials and tribulations she faced, pitching in three straight 1-0 games at one point in the season and going 2-1 over that stretch, she remembers the season for the special moments it held, some of which were career milestones.
“My 1,000th strikeout was probably my favorite moment,” Brehm said. “It kind of made it a little more special because I shared that moment with my dad and got a home run that night too. It’s one of those games I’ll never forget because for some reason, coming into this year I doubted myself. I didn’t know if I’d hit that mark. What if I ended up five strikeouts short or something? You never know what could happen. Finally getting it, and doing it so early in the season, I couldn’t believe I did it.”
Though 1,000 career strikeouts is an accomplishment few achieve, it may not have even been Brehm’s most impressive feat of the season. On Apr. 29, the racked up 29 strikeouts in a 12-inning 1-0 win over Logan.
“I try not to think about the stuff during the game,” Brehm said. “It’s the same thing as when you’re pitching a no-hitter and you jinx yourself. I try not to think about those things, I just try to go out there and pitch to every batter and get the out.”
Speaking of pitching to every batter and getting the out, Brehm learned more about just how important it is to get specific players out. Before, she put an emphasis on the power hitters, but after her senior year she realized eliminating the table setter was arguably more important.
“Before the year I would’ve said (Shady Spring graduate) Brooke (Clark) was the toughest hitter I faced in high school,” Brehm said. “Now after this season I think it’s (Independence graduate) Nicole Kester. I didn’t realize how important she was to get out. She put the ball in play as their leadoff hitter and makes you field it and if you can’t get her out, she can easily steal her way down to third before you even get your first out. I feel like I learned a lot from playing against her.”
Though her days as a Lady Warrior are over, she’ll still be sporting green as she takes the circle for the Ohio Bobcats for the next four years. The stage changes, but the goal will be the same.
After watching UCLA win a thriller over Oklahoma for the Women’s College World Series, Brehm has her eyes set on doing what she did for Wyoming East — breaking through and delivering her team to the championship tournament for the first time in program history.
“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about,” Brehm said. “When we went and watched them in their regional games last year, I was texting the rest of the 2019 recruits telling them how much fun this was to watch. I told them we have to get here when we’re here at least once. It’s so much fun and a completely different world.”
It’s a different world, but Brehm has yet to back down from a challenge.
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