Chicken fueled PattersonPublished 12:02am Sunday, June 1, 2014
The real secret behind Brooke Patterson’s incredible season wasn’t hard work, dedication or even good coaching.
It was chicken.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, to be exact.
“I felt like when I ate chicken I got bigger muscles, I felt stronger. It was a mental thing,” Patterson said with a laugh. “One day I ate Chicken Littles and they were really good. So one day I told my mom, for lunch I want these Chicken Littles. That game I went 3-for-3 and I hit a double, and I was like, OK, we’ve got to start eating them every game now.”
From that point on. Patterson and KFC’s Chicken Littles made the sky fall on a lot of opponents.
The sophomore catcher hit .568 — the fifth-best batting average of any player in Mississippi — drove in 21 runs and scored 22 more.
She led Warren County with 42 hits and was an easy choice as The Vicksburg Post’s fast-pitch softball Player of the Year.
Patterson’s selection marks the third consecutive year, and the fifth time in six years, that a WC player has won the award.
“She was in the top five in the state in hitting all season. Fabulous job. Can’t ask for much more than that,” WC coach Dana McGivney said. “She surpassed what I thought was going to happen.”
Coming into the season, Patterson was an unlikely choice to emerge as the Lady Vikes’ best player.
She hit .389 as a freshman while playing in 15 games as a left fielder.
Patterson’s older sister, Alexis, was WC’s catcher last season but graduated and moved on to play at Hinds Community College. The player expected to replace Alexis Patterson, Karley Hinson, then transferred to Porters Chapel Academy.
That left a hole in the lineup that little sister Brooke was happy to fill.
The younger Patterson switched positions from left field to catcher, partly to follow in Alexis’ footsteps and partly because of her odd calming effect on pitcher Darby Gain.
Gain went 13-4 with a 1.32 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 101 innings this season. Gain’s ERA was the lowest in her three seasons as WC’s primary pitcher.
“I wanted Darby to be comfortable, because if she’s not comfortable then she’s not going to pitch to her full ability,” Patterson said. “Me and her were friends before, and I figured if she had a friend behind the plate, someone that she could talk to all the time, she’ll pitch to her full ability.”
Patterson said part of her job was to make Gain laugh and relax when the pitcher started to struggle. The two often shared a number of in-jokes and even a between-innings handshake that resembled a dance routine.
“When she’s (Gain) in a slump, you can see it on her face. She doesn’t want me to talk to her, but I’ll come talk to her anyway just to lighten up the mood and make her laugh,” Patterson said. “I just keep her relaxed when she’s pitching.”
While Patterson calmed her teammates when they were in the field, she revved them up when they came up to bat.
She had 14 multiple-hit games and hit safely in 22 of the Lady Vikes’ 26 contests. She scored a run in 18 of the 26 games.
Patterson only had five extra base hits, but was often able to turn her singles into doubles and triples while on the basepaths. She stole a team-high 16 bases.
“I was really surprised when I stepped back and looked at it. But I ate my chicken before every game,” Patterson said. “But I didn’t really pay attention to ‘I’ve gotta get a hit, I’m going to get out, or this has to happen for me to score our runners.’ I just got up there and hit it where they weren’t.”