Staff Photo: John Bohn Megan Litumbe is a senior softball player with Brookwood High School. Litumbe is a catcher and outfielder. Additionally, Litumbe is one of the county's top hitters and a Georgia State commitment.
There was no missing the dry humor in Brookwood head coach Bill Batchelor's voice.
"Being the great coach that I am, when we started her sophomore season, she was with us on the varsity, but I really wasn't sure what to do with her yet," Batchelor said. "She ended up playing a couple games -- and did what she does. I knew from then, I wasn't very smart for sitting her out. She should have been playing."
She is Megan Litumbe, who will almost assuredly finish as one of the best hitters in Brookwood's storied history before heading off to play at Georgia State.
"She probably should have been playing as a freshman," said Batchelor, who has guided the perennially powerful Broncos to a region championship seven times in the last 11 seasons and finished among the state's top five four times.
He remembers a coach from outside the county calling one of his assistants when Litumbe was a freshman playing at a JV tournament.
"He said, 'Who is this Litumbe kid? Why is she here?'" Batchelor said.
"So as a coach, probably not one of my smarter decisions," he chuckled.
But Batchelor made the adjustment and Litumbe has been central to the Broncos' success since then.
Litumbe hit .388 as a sophomore and again as a junior last season, which ranks her among the top 10 in school history. It's her ability to produce runs that really, sets Litumbe apart. Last year she had 40 RBIs (second-most for a Bronco in one season), scored 34 runs (fourth all-time) and wrangled 20 walks (tied for third).
Litumbe also hit a school-record eight home runs in a junior season that earned her all-county and all-state honors.
She's on pace to do even more as a senior.
Litumbe is hitting .413 as the No. 7 Broncos prepare to open their region tournament today. She already has 18 walks, 28 RBIs, 29 runs and five homers.
That part of the game came naturally to Litumbe, who started to play when she was 5.
"Very naturally," she said. "When I started travel ball, that's when I took hitting lessons and started getting much better at it. It was a turning point."
The intricacies of hitting, especially learning to read pitchers, was more difficult.
"That didn't come natural -- because I had to use my brain," Litumbe said laughingly. "I had to think about it. I had to understand the game a lot more.
"It made me think a lot when I started to learn how to read a pitcher, her body language, her facial expressions, her whole demeanor. It took me a while to be able to figure that out."
She did -- and obscured somewhat by the gaudy numbers is Litumbe's ability in the field.
"As an outfielder, she has improved tremendously," Batchelor said. "That's on her. The work she's done here and the work she's done with her East Cobb travel team. That gets overlooked when you see the offense."
Also less obvious to outsiders is what Litumbe does for the attitude of the team.
"Obviously she's a fierce competitor, but she's able to make fun of herself," Batchelor said. "She's a great, fun kid to be around.
"She's an absolute hoot. She keeps things light."
Litumbe is well-known on the team for making up words.
"She abbreviates everything she says," Batchelor said. "We were in the state tournament last year and she wanted to go eat frozen yogurt. She said, 'Let's go fro-yo.' I'm like, what's fro-yo?'"
Litumbe, who has a bunch of nicknames, including Tum-Tum, also sends out Friday morning shout-out texts to the team.
"That's the side that you don't see," Batchelor said. "You see the face, you see the competitor, you see the athlete. But you wouldn't realize (how she is most of the time)."
The last two years, despite a good effort, Brookwood has run into the juggernaut that is Collins Hill at the state tournament. The Broncos finished fifth last year and third in Class AAAAA when Litumbe was a sophomore.
"The past two years, we get there and we see Collins Hill and Mill Creek," she said. "This year, it does motivate me. It does make me want it just a little bit more."
Litumbe relishes the pressure that comes with playing for a successful program.
"It comes with a lot of high expectations, but it's amazing," she said. "I love it. Because you expect it from yourself and when you do well, it makes you feel awesome. When our team goes to region and goes to state, all of that, we feel proud of ourselves.
"We walk with a little swagger and a little pride -- because we have Brookwood on our chest. And a big target on our back. But I think it's awesome."