Mulberry Grove softball coach John Barnes likens the scene to what used to happen when Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds came to the plate.
‘People stop what they’re doing to see what she’s going to do,’ said Barnes of the MGHS senior slugger Rachel Brewer’s at-bats. ‘She’s a show stopper.’
Oftentimes you don’t even have to watch Brewer hit to appreciate her ability to pulverize a softball – you can just listen.
The ball sounds different when it comes off Brewers’ bat. It’s a thunderous noise that has echoed throughout Bond County for four years, catching the ears of the Greenville College coaching staff on more than one occasion.
As a result, that distinct sound will be echoing throughout Bond County for another four years.
After drawing serious interest from Division I programs such as Saint Louis University and Southeast Missouri State, Brewer has decided to stay close to home and suit up for the Panthers.
‘It was very hard,’ said Brewer of her college decision, ‘but I just felt like it’d be best for me to stay close to home.’
The fact that Brewer’s older sister, Emily, will likely play alongside her at Greenville is just one of the many reasons Barnes is confident his first baseman/pitcher made the right choice.
‘She had some options,’ Barnes said, ‘but the comfort level is what won her over.Greenville is a perfect fit for her.’
At Greenville, Brewer should get plenty of playing time right out of the gate, as the Panthers will lose seven seniors from this year’s team, including their starting first baseman.
If Brewer had gone the Division I route, she might have had to wait for such an opportunity – and there’s a chance it may have never materialized at all.
Still, there’s a reason Brewer piqued the interest of D-I programs despite being hidden away in Mulberry Grove.
‘She’s one of the best power-hitting girls I’ve seen,’ Barnes said. ‘And she’s not too shabby on the field, either. She’s as agile as any of the players we have. It’s rare to have that agility and power.’
Despite her hitting prowess and underrated athleticism, Brewer’s biggest strength might be her work ethic.
A National Honor Society member, Brewer works as hard on the field as she does in the classroom.
‘She puts in five hours of practice a day, which is ridiculous,’ Barnes said. ‘It’s that work ethic that Greenville (and other programs) took notice of.’
And that work ethic has become a Brewer family tradition. Rachel picked it up from her big sister during her freshman year.
‘I wanted to be just like her,’ said Brewer of her former Aces teammate and soon-to-be Greenville College teammate. ‘She stayed five hours after practice, and I stayed just like her.’
And like just like her sister, all the hard work paid off.
‘They (colleges who recruited Brewer) saw what hard work makes,’ Barnes said. ‘She figured out how to use the strength she has, and she figured that out when she started working with her sister during her freshman year.
‘Now she’s doing the same with her younger sister, and Joanna’s improved greatly. They’re no strangers to work.’
Coming off a junior season in which she hit .466 with 32 RBIs in 29 games, Brewer has continued raking the ball during her senior season.
And she’s done so despite taking on the additional role of de facto staff ace in the absence of injured senior pitcher Brittany Crandell.
Even though she hasn’t pitched since she was in grade school, Brewer has helped the Aces get off to an 11-3 start.
‘She’s been nothing short of miraculous,’ Barnes said.
Still, the pitcher’s circle isn’t exactly Brewer’s comfort zone.
‘It’s nerve-wracking and scary,’ said Brewer. ‘But I just have to do whatever it takes to help my team.’
Fortunately for Brewer, she can do so next year by concentrating on what she does best – hit.