Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood pitcher Brandi Jones (8), right, celebrates the ending of the third inning with teammate short stop Ambree Muller (18), left, in a varsity softball game played against Parkview High School Tuesday in Lilburn.
Brandi Jones remembers going to high school softball games as a kid and watching the pitcher's circle intently.
The position was held down back then by the most decorated prep softball player in Brookwood history, Lisa Norris, a right-hander who left a huge mark in the school and county record books. When Jones went home, she would read about Norris, now a professional softball player, in the newspaper.
"I used to watch Lisa Norris at Brookwood and I wanted to be a high school pitcher like her," Jones said. "That's why I started pitching. I'm really competitive so I liked that the pitcher was such a big part of the game."
Nearly a decade later, Jones is in Norris' position.
She has been since her first opportunity with the high school program as a freshman in the 2008 season, which she entered with few expectations but left as a ninth-grade starter.
It took her just one varsity scrimmage to make her mark. During Brookwood's matchup with Mill Creek, the right-hander struck out Hawks senior Amberlie Saxton, who went on to play at Georgia. It was the second high school batter she faced.
"We knew if she improved from (her freshman season), she'd be pretty darn good," Brookwood head coach Bill Batchelor said. "And she's turned out to be pretty darn good."
Jones, an all-county and all-region player throughout her high school career, took a giant step forward last season to earn all-state honors. She pitched the Broncos to a third-place finish in Class AAAAA, going 19-4 with five saves and a 1.88 ERA.
The Mercer commitment also was important later in the season with her bat, hitting .355 with 23 RBIs and 11 doubles. She had a .410 on-base percentage.
"She's become a pitcher," Batchelor said of Jones. "She came in as a thrower and is leaving as a pitcher. She's matured so much as a pitcher. And offensively, too, she was huge at the end of last year. She's a big reason why we've won two region titles and why we're in the position we're in now."
That position is among Georgia's elite teams. Brookwood is ranked third in AAAAA behind Jones, now a much more seasoned pitcher than when she started high school.
"My freshman year I was more nervous, all the players were older than me," Jones said. "I focused on doing everything perfect. But the older I got, I got more relaxed. I'm more in control of my pitches."
Jones also controls a good portion of her team's goals this season, like repeating as region champion. A state championship also is on the to-do list.
Not even the great Lisa Norris did that at Brookwood.
"Right now we're taking it one game at a time and the first goal is to win a region championship, but the overall goal is to win state," Jones said. "We're really strong. We have a lot of good girls. Even the girls who don't play as much are as good as the ones who are playing. If someone gets hurt, we have players to step in and replace them.
"We did well at state last year and I think it gave us more confidence this year that we deserve to be there. We can play with those teams. And it makes us work even harder to get past where we did last year."