Bre Ethridge talks about doing everything she can to set herself up right.
She has a lot going for her already. She’s smart, well-liked and athletically talented.
But all of that wouldn’t mean nearly as much without a desire to work hard.
Ethridge is a four-year starter for Grayson’s softball team as a pitcher and first baseman. She’s one of the Rams’ best hitters and a natural leader.
“Bre is just one of those one-of-a-kind players that as a coach, you’re lucky to have on your team,” Grayson head coach Jennifer Edwards said. “Since the time she was a freshman, she’s always done everything we’ve asked of her.
“She’s a leader on the field. She knows the game. Her teammates love her. I’ve never heard her say anything negative. She’s just one of those kids it seems like everybody loves.”
It’s no wonder Dartmouth wanted to get her signed.
Ethridge committed to play there in July after the Ivy League school joined the mix later in the recruiting process. Ethridge did a tour of some of the nation’s top institutions and her list of possibilities included all the big names. Harvard. Brown. Yale. Penn.
Dartmouth didn’t hit the radar until this winter.
“One of my recruiting coaches knew the assistant coach up there,” said Ethridge, who is ranked No. 2 in her class of 535 at Grayson. “They asked me to come up for their camp in January.
“The assistant coach, who is in charge of pitching, really liked my pitching. I’m based on movement and positioning the ball where I want it. But the head coach really liked how I swung the bat in the cages. So throughout the entire spring, I kept in contact with them because they wanted to wait until they saw me live.”
At the end of June, Ethridge had a tournament in New Jersey where she was showcased to all the Ivy League coaches.
“On the second day, the Dartmouth College coach came out and watched,” Ethridge said. “It was probably one of the best games I’ve ever pitched.
“We played an 18 Gold team, as a 16U team, and I was able to just outmaneuver them. Even if I started out with the big hit, I was able to work back and get the three outs before she could score.”
They were also impressed with her hitting during the tournament.
“That’s really where it took off,” Ethridge said. “The following two weeks, I talked more with the head coach and up there you have to put your info in to the admissions. Because if you verbal and you don’t have the academics, it just doesn’t work.”
With a 4.0 GPA while taking advanced placement classes and some impressive test scores — 2,000 on the SAT and a near-perfect 34 on the ACT — there wasn’t much question she would be eligible.
“Within a week, coach called me and said, ‘I’ve been looking at your academics and I think you’re going to be fine. I don’t really want to wait. I want you on the team,’” Ethridge said. “I knew that it was where I wanted to go. I had it down to my top four and Dartmouth was in the top two. I had just gotten the feeling that was where I needed to be.”
Even before she was really considering the Ivy League, Ethridge was putting in the work.
“I didn’t realize I wanted to go to a top academic school until probably the end of my freshman year,” she said. “Which is when I decided it was an option for me.
“Through middle school and even freshman year, I knew I was smart, but until I got my report card each year and noticed I was in the top of my class, I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually, possibly go there.’ It was just something that grew as an interest as I got my AP scores back and I got into other AP classes.”
Good, even excellent, grades aren’t the lone factor though.
“The only thing looming was the SAT and ACT,” Ethridge said. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know if I can do this.’ Because on my PSAT, I really didn’t get top-notch scores. I got average scores.”
So she took prep classes. And crushed both tests, particularly the more math/science based ACT, which is where her career interests lie.
“Once I got that, I was ecstatic,” Ethridge said. “I knew I could go anywhere.”
All that came on the heels of a tough end to her junior season with the Rams.
Ethridge was hobbled first by a minor concussion and then, for much longer, by an ankle injury. Late in the regular season, in a game against Parkview, Ethridge was hit in the head by an overthrown ball and missed two weeks.
“I wasn’t able to do anything,” she said. “Coming back, it was difficult at first.”
Her first game back in the field, Ethridge made some uncharacteristic errors.
“I like to push my self to be the best athlete possible and seeing that, it almost hurt,” she said. “Like I wasn’t there for my team. Even though I had just recovered from an injury. But I came out the next couple of games and did what I had to do, did my job.”
Two weeks later, Ethridge was at first base for the second-round playoff opener against Mill Creek.
“There was a throw-in from the outfield,” Ethridge said. “A girl was stealing and trying to come back to first. In the effort, trying to tag her, she slid right into my ankle. I flopped to the ground. We were both in a pile.”
Ethridge continued to bat in the game, which Grayson won on a walk-off hit, and again in Game 2 of the doubleheader.
“The following day at school, I had to tough it out and just wear an ankle brace,” Ethridge said.
She hit again the next day in a deciding Game 3, but Mill Creek rolled to a 6-0 win and ended the Rams’ season.
“The next day I went to the doctor and they said I had fractured it,” Ethridge said. “And I had a high ankle sprain on both sides.”
Even her coaches didn’t know it was that bad.
“She was going to play through it,” Edwards said. “She always put the team first. It wasn’t until after the game we even knew she was hurt.
“She’s the type that wants to lead by example and doesn’t want to let her team down. She wants to be out there.”
Ethridge was in a boot for two weeks and that didn’t stop her from working on her game.
“I was doing drills in my garage,” Ethridge said. “Because I knew this past summer was my summer to show what I could do in front of these college coaches. I wanted to improve that much more.
“Last season, after my concussion, I didn’t get to pitch again. There was three weeks left in the season and I didn’t get to pitch again. I wanted to push myself even more so that I could be the best pitcher possible and be able to be a leader from the mound again this year.”