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Valencia's Kristina Brackpool: Won't back down

Valencia’s Brackpool has learned to embrace big moments

Posted: May 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Valencia junior first baseman Kristina Brackpool has dedicated herself to improving her abilities the past two years. Valencia junior first baseman Kristina Brackpool has dedicated herself to improving her abilities the past two years.
Valencia junior first baseman Kristina Brackpool has dedicated herself to improving her abilities the past two years.

When Valencia softball’s Kristina Brackpool came up to the plate in the Vikings’ CIF-Southern Section Division I first-round playoff game, she was happy with what she saw.

The Vikings had two runners in scoring position, and it was up to her to drive them in.

It was a situation she relishes, but one she hasn’t always been so ready to embrace.

“When I was younger and first got into travel ball, I didn’t want to be that kid that came up in the clutch,” she says. “I was more passive. I wasn’t scared, but wouldn’t pick that spot to be in.”

It’s taken a while for her to realize that, though.

The junior first baseman entered Valencia with all the bravado of a freshman athlete who dreams of bigger things, but was quickly disappointed to find out that due to all the returning talent, head coach Donna Lee wasn’t going to promote any freshmen to the varsity team.

Brackpool certainly thought she was good enough.

Three years later, she realizes she had a lot to learn.

“I thought I knew a lot as a freshman. In no way did I think I was the best — I knew I could learn a lot — but I figured that I thought I was good back then,” Brackpool says. “And then I got a reality check. I was like, ‘I need coaching. I’m not the best. I’m not in any way better than anyone around me. I need to work hard and have a positive mind-set.’ I was an average player, and I don’t think I put enough time and effort into the game.”

That all changed, though, during her freshman season.

Rather than sulk, Brackpool decided to prove her worth.

“That really got me to work harder,” she says. “I had the mind-set that I would work hard every day and make myself better every day.”

Flash forward to this season and it’s clear Brackpool’s determination paid off.

“Her intensity increased a lot more,” says teammate Vanessa Lightfoot, who also played on the JV team with Brackpool when the two were freshman. “She’s a lot more competitive, just going through the levels she got more competitive. Freshman year, she felt like she knew a lot, but everyone has room to grow.”

Now, Brackpool leads Valencia in hits with 38 and is second on the team with 21 RBIs.

Brackpool has even gained the attention of major colleges, verbally committing in February to play for Penn State University.

“It’s taken all of her coaches to show her more things for her to understand that she shouldn’t be as cocky, if that’s the right word,” says her sister Andrea, who played with Kristina at Valencia before moving on to play at College of the Canyons. “She’s always been a good player, but turning that corner has made her into an even better player.”

And it’s that transformation that will make Brackpool just the fourth player from the highly regarded program to play for a Big 10 school — after current senior Karlie Habitz heads to Penn State this fall.

“I definitely saw (Brackpool) at a Division I school. She had all the talent and she had that mentality,” says Valencia head coach Donna Lee. “It’s hard to coach that mental game and you want to be that person, and some kids have it and some kids don’t, and she has it.”

Brackpool still has plenty of work to do before college arrives, though.

And that works starts Tuesday when the Vikings host Orange Lutheran in a second-round playoff game.

“She’s going to be a big part of winning in CIF,” Lightfoot says. “She’s one of our biggest hitters on the team. We look for her to get some big hits and we have a lot of faith in her.”

And if she ends up coming to the plate with runners on, there’s nowhere she’d rather be.

“I have a mind-set where my gameplan every time is to see the ball and drive it to right center,” she says. “See the ball, drive the ball. My favorite count is 3-2, runners on, game on the line. I really like having that pressure.”

Her coach is certainly in agreement.

“There’s no one more that I’d rather have up than Kristina,” Lee says. “Last year and this year, she came up big for us.”

And for good reason.

That first-round game in which she came up with two runners on base?

She sent a double into the outfield to score the eventual game-winning run.



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