Carlie Brandt is listed as a utility player on Minnesota’s roster, and there may not be a more fitting description.
The true freshman from Le Sueur, Minnesota has the ability to play almost every position for the Gophers, something that came into play on the first weekend of the season in Texas.
During Minnesota’s second game against the Longhorns on Saturday, Brandt was warming up in the bullpen to come on and pitch in relief.
Rather than have her take the ball, however, the Gophers moved senior Sara Groenewegen to the circle, with sophomore Maddie Houlihan taking her spot at designated hitter — and Brandt replacing Houlihan in left field.
“Carlie is a true utility player,” said Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister. “We’ve had some great utility players in the past, but she really is the epitome of it. There’s a good chance she could play every position but catcher for us by the time she graduates.”
Although Brandt didn’t record a hit in the opening tournament, she possesses a fielding percentage of 1.000, and is 1-0 having given up zero earned runs through 4.2 innings pitched.
She’s continuing the success she had in high school, where she was the 2016 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year, and a five-time all-conference awardee.
“She has great hands, a great arm, she’s fast—she’s just a really good softball player,” Allister said. “She does a little bit of everything.”
While Brandt certainly benefits the team with her utility, she chalks it up to a mentality found around the lineup.
“Everyone is so diverse in the positions they’re willing to play,” Brandt said. “This team is so talented.”
Perhaps nowhere is that statement more accurate than in the outfield, where the Gophers lost all three senior outfielders to graduation following last season. To fill the gaps, Houlihan and senior Sam Macken — both career infielders — have moved to the outfield, allowing Minnesota to field what it sees as its best potential lineup.
Groenewegen knows she has a big leadership role as a senior, and said she gives younger players the message that hard work pays off.
“[It’s about] letting them know that they’re good enough, and telling them to keep working hard because when they work hard good things will happen,” Groenewegen said.
The No. 13 Gophers will look to build on a 5-0 start when they travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, featuring two games each against Notre Dame and North Carolina State.
For Brandt, as a Minnesota native, playing for the home-state Gophers is a dream come true—especially when she can see the field so much.
“It’s such a great honor—this first weekend has been amazing,” Brandt said. “I would not want to be anywhere else.”