Brentwood Academy softball Greg Brown knew Anna Groenewoud could be a difference-maker this spring.
He had witnessed her pitching prowess while watching the middle school team and Tennessee Mojo travel ball program over the past two years.
Groenewoud has more than delivered on those expectations as an eighth-grader.
Brentwood Academy’s youngest player and its go-to arm carries a 2.65 ERA and 126 strikeouts through 103 innings this season.
“Our expectations have always been high for her, but we didn’t think they were unrealistic,” Brown said. “She had a little bit of a learning curve on the front end just because of being young and transitioning from middle school to high school ball. But I think the travel ball program that she’s in really helped her. She has played a lot of high-level competition.”
Groenewoud hit her stride as the calendar flipped from March to April. Her only loss last month came in a 5-2 defeat against Goodpasture on April 9. The Lady Eagles (17-5) have since reeled off eight consecutive wins thanks in part to Groenewoud’s effectiveness in the circle.
“When I pitch, it doesn’t really matter who I’m throwing against, how old they are or where they (attend school),” she said. “I’m just pitching, and I love pitching. It’s easy for me to do what I love and have fun with it.”
Brentwood Academy assistant coach Heather Groenewoud, Anna’s mother, said her daughter keeps opposing hitters off-balance with the spin she puts on the ball. Anna throws both a drop ball and rise ball that travel through the same “tunnel” before breaking up or down at the plate.
“She’s never been the fastest (thrower), but she’s always had pretty good movement,” said Heather, who graduated from Overton High School and played at Ole Miss from 1997-2000.
“Because of that, she’s always able to stay in the game. The more you spin the ball, the more it moves and the harder it is for batters to hit.”
Anna also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For some, that might be an obstacle. But Heather said Anna has learned to “harness” it to improve her pitching.
“I consider it a superpower,” Heather said. “People with ADHD have the ability to hyperfocus, and I would say that she hyper-focuses on pitching. She just loves it. We have to make her take breaks and days off.”
Anna’s dream is to eventually become a starter for a Power 5 college team. Extra Inning Softball lists her as the No. 178 prospect in the 2025 class.
“I’m definitely going to have to be the best of the best and work really hard,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of people that want to get there and (earn) a starting position.”
Brown described Anna as a person who “doesn’t have a bad day.” She is a constant source of chatter, laughter and encouragement from the dugout while other Brentwood Academy players are batting.
Anna’s teammates have returned the favor by backing her up with offense and defense. The Lady Eagles are averaging 9.3 runs per game as they look to earn the 15th state tournament appearance in program history. Brentwood Academy has committed just 21 errors all season.
That takes some of the pressure off the eighth-grade standout.
“It makes pitching less stressful when you know you have girls who can hit and put some runs on the board,” Brown said. “Anna does a great job pitching, the girls do a great job of hitting the ball and they play good defense behind her.”