The leading hitter and pitcher in the major division Oakdale Baseball Association American League rocked opposing batters for 59 strikeouts and accumulated an astounding .631 average at the plate.
The marks would be an impressive feat for any boy in a tough field of aspiring Oakdale High Mustang athletes — but 11-year-old Bronte Lucero is no boy.
The Sierra View sixth grade girl competes with the best of Oakdale’s young male baseball players, and often dominates them.
“Bronte is better than 95 percent of the boys in our league,” OBA major division president Rufus Santos said. “She’s quite the little player, and we are very proud of her.”
Bronte was chosen to compete in the National vs. American Oakdale Baseball Association All Star showcase at Fair Oaks Field on Wednesday.
With only one attempt at a long ball in the home run derby remaining, she wasn’t about to swing at junk, and watched a handful of high, inside and outside pitches go by before connecting with a pitch in her sweet spot. The big swing delivered a ball to deep right field, where it ultimately connected with the top of the fence for a narrow miss.
The impressive swing drew heavy applause from a large crowd of supporters who couldn’t help but murmur admiration as Bronte’s bat found deep outfield locations with nearly every pitch.
And hitting is only one aspect of her game.
“She throws such a hard ball that I use her as my intimidator on the mound,” OBA Athletics coach Larry Bowers said. “I’ll have her throw the first inning, then come in to close the last.”
Bronte has played for the OBA since she was six years old, and year after year has managed to return to the baseball field instead of making the transition to softball — not that it has been easy.
Her mom, Robyn Hoegh, tried to steer her in the direction of softball, in fact, but Bronte resisted and found a way to compete again this season in the league she feels she is best suited for … baseball.
“She just loves baseball and doesn’t want to play softball,” Bronte’s father, Paul Lucero laughed.
Her exploits may have been a shock to the OBA community at first, but by now parents are used to watching their boys retired to the dugout via Bronte Lucero strikes. Boys in the OBA have long gotten over the shock of being struck out by a girl.
“I treat her like I do all the boys in our league, and if she does well I think it’s great,” Sierra View student and 11-year-old Yankees standout Will Jones said. “She loves the game and she is very good at it.”
The support wasn’t always easy to see. Bronte’s father used to get flack from local parents who didn’t feel she belonged in a league full of boys.
“I used to hear some grumblings from parents whose boys were struck out by Bronte,” Lucero said. “Now no one is surprised by it, and the majority of the boys don’t seem to feel any worse by striking out to a girl.”
Bronte has a capable change-up, but it’s her accurate two-seam and four-seam fastballs that have led to most of her success from the hill. The pitches are big reasons the mound is Bronte’s favorite place to be.
“Pitching is the most fun I have ever had,” Bronte said. “It’s really cool to be a girl and strike out boys who are good at baseball.”
If Bronte can stay in the upper tier of Oakdale’s baseball youth, it wouldn’t be out of the question to think she could compete on the baseball diamond instead of the softball field as a freshman in 2013.
It’s a long way away, though, and boys will have an opportunity to develop some serious physical attributes to compete with her, but no one is willing to rule out the possibility — least of all Bronte herself.
“I know I probably won’t be able to play baseball in high school, but I am going to try,” Bronte said. “If I don’t make it then I won’t play, but I’m not ready to quit.”