*Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify a quote.
COLUMBIA – Brianna Corwin sat on a black stool in the Missouri softball team's dugout wearing a puffy black coat. Her head was turned toward the batter’s box, the same direction as everyone else's Saturday at University Field. But most of the other players and fans didn’t see what Corwin was seeing.
Not being able to warm up on the field like her teammates who start, Corwin crossed her arms tightly to stop herself from shivering. Tucked between her arms and hands, she clenched a black notebook.
The only time she broke her stare at the field was to look down at her notes. Every time a Missouri player was up to bat, she watched and listened to everything that was happening.
“There’s a lot that goes on in the dugout that just watching the game, you would never know about,” sophomore Kelsi Jones said.
Corwin and Jones are part of a Missouri bench that contributes to the game without stepping on the field.
Senior Lindsey Muller takes notes with Corwin while Missouri is up to bat, and senior Rachel Hay observes with assistant coach Pete D’Amour when a Tigers pitcher, usually Chelsea Thomas, is in the circle. Missouri also has 10 managers on staff to aid with tracking stats.
"I listen. I help keep track of what's going on, on the field," Corwin said. "I track pitches, I help track tendencies."*
Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson took notice of Missouri’s observant ways when the Tigers played the Wildcats in Lexington, Ky., a few weeks ago.
“They have a ton of managers, and they collect stats like nobody else I’ve ever seen. It’s almost like a football team,” Lawson said in the Southeastern Conference teleconference Monday. “They use video in a way that has never been used before.”
Lawson said Missouri’s statistic-driven strategies bring a unique dynamic to the SEC. She also said she learned more when Kentucky played Missouri than she has learned in a two-day span in recent years.
During the series in Kentucky, Corwin got two opportunities to perform one of her other roles — pinch running.
Sophomore Kelsea Roth hit a single in the second inning of Saturday’s first game against Tennessee and before she reached first base, Corwin was in the back of the dugout putting her batting helmet on. With the puffy coat left on her stool, Corwin ran out to first base to pinch run for Roth.
The junior is happy Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine trusts her, and she is one of Missouri’s most used pinch runners.
After stealing second base, Corwin waited to see what freshman Sarah Moore was going to do at the plate. With two outs, Corwin took off from second the moment the ball was released by Tennessee pitcher Ellen Renfroe, and Moore followed with a single to left field.
Corwin ran past the waving arm of Earleywine at third, stumbling slightly as she made the turn, and made it safely to home to give Missouri a 1-0 lead.
“When I’m on third, I’m just thinking, ‘This is me, I’m going to score this run and I’m best,’” Corwin said. “At that moment, I’m the best.”
Corwin thrives under the pressure to score in a close game. It is one of the parts of softball Corwin does best.
In her three years at Missouri, Corwin has had the word “utility” next to her name on the roster. For many people in the sport, utility is just a nice way of saying back-up or bench player, especially when the player has only started five games. But Corwin doesn’t care.
“It sounds bad, ‘the bench player,’ but for me, I love it,” Corwin said. “I get to help my teammates get a hit and see things that they maybe don’t see while they’re playing, so I like it a lot.”
Corwin is admired by her teammates and coaches for her ability to embrace not starting while working as hard as anyone on the team. Because of her role in the dugout, D’Amour went as far to say that Corwin was invaluable to the team.
After scoring, Corwin picked up Moore’s bat that was lying near home plate, high-fived the next hitter, Carlie Rose, and jogged back into the dugout to continue her other job.
Within moments, she was back at her stool, wearing her puffy coat and watching the game.
“I know for me, if I wouldn’t have played much, I may’ve quit and gone somewhere else, but she’s hung in here and done it with a great attitude, and I just have a lot of respect for people who do that,” Earleywine said.
Corwin will more than likely get another opportunity to run the bases Thursday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington when the Tigers play in their first ever SEC tournament game. First pitch between Arkansas and Missouri is set for 3 p.m. CST.
The last time Corwin played Arkansas, she scored a run in one game but was caught stealing in another – something she works extra hard in practice to avoid.
“She just cares so much, and it’s really just evident in everything that she does for us behind the scenes that she never gets credit for, but she’s always doing something for the team,” senior Nicole Hudson said.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.