Brooke Bolinger didn’t always enjoy being left-handed.
The junior pitcher recently told her Texas teammates about a time when she was the only left-hander on her softball team. That kind of adversity was more than a 5-year-old was willing to handle. So Bolinger would cry to her father about her unique status.
Years later, though, Bolinger has embraced being a southpaw. Of the six pitchers on Texas’ roster, she’s the lone left-hander. Only five of the 34 pitchers in the Big 12 are left-handed.
“I like being left-handed,” Bolinger said. “It’s being a little different than other people.”
Bolinger is 2-2 this season, and she has struck out 25 batters in 22 2/3 innings of work. She recorded 10 strikeouts against Wisconsin on Feb. 9 before pitching a shutout two weeks later against nationally-ranked Michigan. Her 4.63 ERA, however, has been inflated by a five-run outing against No. 6 Oregon and a grand slam surrendered in the final inning of last week’s 8-5 loss to No. 19 Ohio State.
Bolinger, who transferred to Texas following the 2016 season, earned all-conference honors as a freshman at Nevada. In her first season at Texas, she went 7-2 and posted a 2.50 ERA as a sophomore.
Equipped with a seven-pitch arsenal — the best of which is her curve ball — Bolinger has been used as both a starter and reliever this season. Texas coach Connie Clark, who began recruiting her when Bolinger was in the eighth grade, lauded the pitcher’s grit.
“I think she brings, quite honestly, she brings a little bit of a mean streak and we need that,” Clark said. “Brooke, that’s just in her DNA.”
The competitive strands of Bolinger’s DNA, by the way, are tied to an athletic family. Her father, Greg, had an NFL career. Her sisters, Brittany and Brianna, both played softball at UNLV. So she grew up with softball; the California native would go to her sisters’ lessons and games, and “I would walk around in a pitching motion.”
Bolinger insists her sisters will say she’s the best athlete in her seven-member family. They still keep close tabs on her. Brittany and Brianna, who live in San Diego and Las Vegas, still monitor their sister’s games and remain her toughest critics. Their best advice? Keep that “swag” in the circle.
“They push me a lot,” Bolinger said. “Them constantly telling me what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right is good to hear. I take a lot of their words to heart.”
Texas (6-8) hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday night. The Islanders will serve as an appetizer for a three-game series against Arizona that gets underway at McCombs Field on Friday.
This series may have extra meaning for Bolinger since one of Arizona’s most-famous alumni is her favorite player — former All-American pitcher Jennie Finch. She’s too young to remember Finch’s Wildcats days, as she was born a little more than two years before Finch’s first game at Arizona, but did grow up watching Team USA. She said she admires Finch’s competitiveness and work ethic.
The three games against the ninth-ranked Wildcats will be UT’s seventh, eighth and ninth contests so far against teams ranked in this week’s USA Today Coaches poll. Last year, Texas dropped 3-0, 2-1 and 4-2 decisions to Arizona in Tucson. Bolinger pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-hit relief in the two-run loss.
“I’m really excited, especially since we played them last year and we were close every single game,” Bolinger said. “I think them being on our turf, we can take care of them on our field and kind of get them back.”
THIS WEEKEND’S SERIES
No. 9 Arizona at Texas, Friday-Sunday (4:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday), LHN, 105-3