Freshman Columbia College softball player steps into new role with old teammates

Monday, April 29, 2013 | 10:44 p.m. CDT; updated 11:06 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 29, 2013
Columbia College Cougars defeated Missouri Baptist University Spartans 3-1 during the American Midwest Conference Tournament Quarterfinals on Monday at Bethel Park.

COLUMBIA — Kaylee Brueggeman sits in the dugout. She occasionally munches on peanuts, tossing the shells into the nearby trash can. A necklace with a No. 2 pendant hangs from her neck as she cheers on her teammates.

But the freshman Columbia College softball player isn't No. 2. She's No. 13.

Her teammates in the dugout notice the contradiction.

"I'm honoring Chelsie," Brueggeman says jokingly.

No. 2 was Brueggeman's number at Wentzville Holt High School last year. But at Columbia College, No. 2 belongs to senior outfielder Chelsie Crain, honored Monday on the Cougars' senior night. 

But the senior and freshman share more than the number. In fact, Brueggeman has seen Crain move on before.

Brueggeman and Crain played together at Wentzville Holt, with Crain graduating in 2009 and Brueggeman graduating in 2012. Brueggeman played as catcher in high school and now plays in right field, but otherwise nothing has changed.

"It's just like old times," Brueggeman says.

During Game 2 of a doubleheader against Missouri Baptist on Monday, Brueggeman took a lead off third base as sophomore Maria Imhoff stood at bat, hoping to score a run for the Cougars.

Imhoff hit a line drive down the third base line that nicked Brueggeman. The freshman thought the ball was foul, but the umpire judged the ball fair and called her out because of the contact. 

As Crain and Brueggeman recalled the game later, both agreed it was a bad call. But this didn't stop Brueggeman from wishing she could throw cake at Crain, just as they did at senior night in high school.

Even though Brueggeman was just a high school freshman then, she ended up with a face full of cake. This time around, Brueggeman had hoped to get "revenge." But there was no cake to be found at the college senior night, so Crain and Brueggeman reminisced about the earlier incident. 

She's going to miss Crain, Brueggeman said. And next year Brueggeman will, in a way, really be honoring her longtime teammate — she plans to inherit No. 2 after Crain leaves.

As a warm wind blew posters honoring the seniors around the dugout Monday, Brueggeman and Crain threw a ball to each other on the field between innings. They didn't say much, but they didn't need to.

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