During one January practice, as the Academy of Art softball team was gearing up for the season, Brooke Larsen stepped into the circle against her roommate, third baseman Jayda Alaan, who likes to crowd the plate. Larsen hit her.
“Jayda was like, ‘Come on, I’m your roommate!'” said head coach Sonja Garnett. “Brooke just looked at her, and said, ‘Well, back off my plate.’ It was pure competitiveness: ‘This is what I do, this is what I own; you can’t have it.'”
Five months, 22 wins, 10 shutouts and 207 strikeouts later, Larsen capped a historic freshman campaign by becoming the program’s first All-American, earning two second-team nods as a utility-pitcher after helping lead the Urban Knights to their first postseason ever.
“Every time I would see that I got an award of some kind, it honestly surprised me,” Larsen said. “I have such high expectations of myself … That’s never my goal. My goal is to go out and just to get wins.”
Before her All-American nods from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and the Division II Conference Commissioners Association, Larsen had earned an NFCA All-Region First-Team spot, was named to the D2CCA All-Region First Team and was first-team All-PacWest.
At Sacramento-Del Campo, Larsen was a three-time all-metro Sacramento Bee First-Team selection, with a 1.75 career ERA, 479 strikeouts, and a .351 career batting average. She was also an accomplished pencil portrait artist. Larsen saw the possibility for her artistic inclinations to be nurtured at the Academy of Art, but also the opportunity to earn a degree that would lead to real-world success while playing softball. So, she chose the Urban Knights. She’s now majoring in advertising and drawing commissioned pieces on the side.
“Our school is so unique in what we study that we can get amazing athletes that are very excited about art,” Garnett said. “I think we have that ability to recruit those top-level athletes, because we’re the only art school in the NCAA … We definitely appreciate and value that we were able to get someone who’s so competitive and so talented, as well.”
Larsen finished her first regular season ranked fifth in Division II in shutouts and innings pitched (178.1), 11th in strikeouts (207), 19th in wins (21) and 23rd in ERA (1.41). At the plate, she led the PacWest in doubles (18) and was tied for ninth in batting (.359).
“What’s great about Brooke is that she’s a perfectionist, but understands and can deal with failure really well,” Garnett said.
During the postseason, Larsen posted a 1.62 ERA in 8 2/3 innings, struck out 10 and earned the Urban Knights’ lone win. Just over two weeks after being eliminated by No. 12 Concordia, Larsen is already heading into her offseason regimen.
“We didn’t want it to end. We wanted to make history,” Larsen said. “I’m just trying to get out as much as I can with a catcher, just to stay in it.”