VANDALIA – It’s often said that bad things tend to come three at a time.
But when applied to the athletic career of Vandalia senior Amber Bruno, the old adage just doesn’t hold up.
Whether it’s shooting in basketball or hitting in softball, Bruno is a triple threat, and those skills have allowed her to become one of the most decorated female athletes in school history.
She recently finished her basketball career as the No. 2 female scorer in school history with 1,652 points (behind Sarah Roberts, 1,875), using strong 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting to complement her ability to drive to the basket and score layups.
This spring, she will look to continue her year-by-year improvement at the plate, as she leads the softball team’s offense with a mix of slap hits, bunts and full swings.
One area of Bruno’s career that hasn’t come in a three is the number of years that she has started for the varsity teams.
As a freshman, she took over a starting role with the basketball team ahead of some seniors, and was immediately penciled in at shortstop for the softball team once she was in high school.
But those lofty expectations did not have much effect on her play.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Bruno said of the shortstop position. “That’s usually the position with the most action, but I knew that if my coach thought I could do it, then I could.”
About starting in basketball, she said, “One day, coach said, ‘You’ll be starting this season, so keep working hard.
It was a big change of pace (from junior high) and was tough getting used to, but I adjusted pretty quickly.”
Bruno maintained her role as a shooting guard throughout her career, earning numerous accolades along the way.
She never missed a high school game, scored her 1,000th career point as a junior and fell just one point short of Meredith Banal's school record for single-game scoring with 36 points on Feb. 4 in the regional quarterfinals.
“As a freshman, she took some heat, along with me, for starting over some seniors,” said girls basketball coach Michelle McNary. “I think she has proven that she deserved to be a person who was a four-year starter.”
Twice Bruno scored more than 30 points in a game this season, also getting 32 against Neoga in an overtime win on Dec. 8.
She said that it was her unselfish teammates who allowed her to twice set her career high in scoring as a senior.
“We were pushing the ball more,” Bruno said. “That gave us more opportunities to score, and in those games, it seemed like I couldn’t miss.”
Those games, along with 13 others in which she scored at least 20 points, helped lead to her to 564 points on the season – easily a career high.
Of those points, 147 came from 3-pointers, 150 came from free throws and 264 came from two-point field goals.
That triple-threat scoring led the Lady Vandals to a 12-17 record.
She will continue her basketball career at Fontbonne University, where she will double-major in accounting and business in hopes of becoming a certified public accountant.
In doing so, she will leave behind a legacy at Vandalia, but she will never leave behind the memories that were made.
“It’s been awesome,” Bruno said. “I’ve been lucky to have good coaches and an awesome team that has made me who I am.
“I can’t believe it’s over.”
Annually a threat to hit better than .400 and reach base in more than half of her plate appearances, Bruno will be looking to improve her offensive statistics this spring for the fourth straight season.
And Vandalia softball coach Brian Buscher said if that happens, it should lead to several runs for the Lady Vandals.
“We turned her around to bat left-handed, and she expects to be on base every time, even though that won’t happen,” Buscher said. “She can put the ball in play and beat it out.
“She is a base stealing threat every time she gets on,” he said. “She’s probably not the fastest on the team, but she is definitely our best base stealer.”
A right-hander, Bruno switched sides at the plate to help give her a running to start toward first base when she bunts or slaps.
Slap-hitting also allows her to place the ball better than with a regular swing, so if she sees a hole in the defense, chances are, that is where the ball will be headed.
“Slapping is my best, because I can place it better,” Bruno said. “I like having the power to slap it wherever I want to.”
Defensively, she said, her goal is to commit zero errors, which would be a tremendous accomplishment for a middle infielder.
Buscher, meanwhile, is just looking for steady fielding from the senior.
“She’s very athletic, so defensively, her biggest thing is being consistent, and she has done that over the past three years,” he said. “We expect her to consistently make the routine plays.”
How far the power of three will carry her in softball is yet to be seen, but if she can increase her softball production the same amount as her basketball production, she will be in for a huge season.
The offense is sure to be there, but it may be her defense that is the most important aspect of her game this season, as the team will again be without ace Megan Godoyo, so she will need to be a slick fielder.
And if all goes well, it will be a new triple threat that will be discussed by season's end – her hitting, base running and fielding.
The Bruno File
The Leader-Union's rapid-fire Q&A with Amber Bruno.
Parents: Sonia and Ralph.
College team: U of I.
Pro player: Kevin Durant.
TV show: Pretty Little Liars.
Dream job: Owning CPA office.