In Love With the Game : Mariah Bryant
In Love with the Game!
This story was done several years back of former Central Hardin Softball star Mariah Bryant and details her love for the game she plays.
Mariah Bryant is in love with the game of Softball! The senior, who once played several positions before finally finding herself back behind the plate once said that “If I could marry the game of softball I would. I would rather marry it than a guy.” Which really shouldn’t be a surprise because she has grown up around the game after the strong influence of her older brother (who was seven years older) at a younger age. “My brother use to play baseball and he took me out in the backyard and would throw me ground balls and would pitch to me and it kind of grew on me.” Bryant started playing baseball as a youngster then six and under came and she transitioned to softball. Many might be surprised that Mariah started out on the pitcher’s mound (or circle depending on which sport at the time) and eventually got to pitch during fastpitch games and was moved to shortstop then back to catcher which was where she ended up when she was seven years old. By the way, Bryant’s money-pitch was a fastball which struggled to get across the plate sometimes. Probably her biggest influence was her first travel ball coach Mickey Brangers. He played a pivotal role in her softball life like when she needed guidance Brangers was always there. Catching is a thinking person’s position because you have to know and control so much. Bryant confided that blocking was an early issue when she first started because she was afraid to get hit by the ball, but know it’s her favorite thing.
Bryant was moved up to varsity at Central Hardin during the seventh-grade year and it was quite a culture shock going from competing against girls her own age to those older and stronger. The 2011 version of the Lady Bruins were a talented group with a star pitcher in Kristina Krupinski and a batting lineup with no holes. This was a great advantage for Bryant, who could learn the position and not feel pressured to make an impression immediately. “Honestly, starting out was kind of scary because I was the youngest. They kind of helped me get through it. Kristina took me under her wing and helped me through it even when Goodman yelled at times. She always was there to pick me up and tell me not to let it bother me. Whenever I started, she told my mom that she’d help me out.” Of course, the learning curve didn’t just stop at catching as she had to adjust to varsity pitching and the different styles depending on who they faced. “My first season, I remember (North Hardin’s) Andrea Whelan, because I got a little bloop hit off of her. I remember that because she threw so hard and I got thrown into the game. I, also remember we played Eastern about two years ago. They had a pitcher that threw really hard. I hit one right back up the middle and it hit her. I thought she was going to come beat me up, but she didn’t. She looked a little scary and I remember thinking she throws pretty good. She threw really hard.” Batting wasn’t the only time Bryant could feel a little intimidated at the sudden high level of athlete. Sometimes when she was behind the plate as a catcher she experienced a little bit of fear. “When Summer Ratliff played (Green County). I was catching and I was an eighth-grader. Real itty bitty and she was always bigger than me and I was a little afraid of her and I told my mom that if she growled at me I was going to start running.” That season, Bryant was part of a 5th Region Champion team which made a trip to the KHSAA State Tournament. The first of four in her varsity history and she quickly discovered that competing in the Sweet Sixteen of Kentucky State Softball is vastly different than a regular season schedule. “There is a whole lot more difference when you go to Owensboro. Whether it’s your fans or not, they are watching you if you are playing their team. Either way they are there to watch you.” That postseason, Central Hardin won their first two games before dropping their next two and were eliminated, but it was a great experience as she immediately began summer ball that year. “Summer ball is a whole lot different than playing high school ball. It’s more laid back and you don’t get yelled at as much as you do in high school ball.” Coming into her senior season, Bryant was now a focused mature athlete and was leading the area in most offensive categories. “It’s just maturity because (Coach) Goodman gets on us about swinging at bad pitches every day or swing at balls over our heads or in the dirt, so we always have to swing at the right ones.” As the leadoff batter, Bryant has helped jump start an offense that has put up over 373-runs and outscored opponents 58-7 in the District and Region Tournament.
She’s also one of the oldest (for once) and knows that carries a high sense of responsibility. “I like being the oldest, because every girl looks up to you on the team so you have to pay attention at what you do because they need to understand that you have to work hard to be able to take that position on the team.” After making the KHSAA state softball tournament in 2013 and 2015 and winning one game each during that time, the Lady Bruins got back this season and won two games against good competition before being overwhelmed by both Daviess County and East Carter. Bryant played well in all four games although her batting statistics were a bit down due to the elite competition, she and the Central Hardin were competitive and that’s all you could ask in the end. Unfortunately, Bryant’s high school career, much like Shelby Peace (from North Hardin) is also over and she has already looked to the next step in her life which is playing college softball at Cincinnati Christian College. “I can’t wait. If I could go right now I would. I’m really excited to play college ball.” She has already decided to teach Elementary School and possibly coach softball somewhere if possible. She’s already prepared herself for when the time comes and she has since retired her bat and glove and witnesses the next middle-school sensation playing her position. “It’ll make me feel old, but it will make me feel proud. It’s always nice to see younger girls with the same talent that you do play for somebody else.” That of course is still sometime in the future for the girl who would marry the game she plays in a heartbeat.