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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Val T.

Where are they now? Maci Brown

Her college softball career over, former Rochester star heading to UIndy for grad school


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Maci Brown’s life story is like a riddle.

She went to high school in Rochester and college in Rochester but in two different states.

She went to college at Oakland but not the Oakland in California.

She played in an NCAA Tournament while at Oakland but not for the team that beat Kentucky and became national darlings for three days in March. No, she played another sport.

Oakland is located in Rochester, Mich., which is located about 30 miles north of Detroit. It’s about a four-hour-and-15-minute drive from Rochester, Ind.

“Whenever I would say, ‘Rochester, Indiana,’ they’re like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’” Brown said. “When I first was telling people that I was from Rochester, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re right down the road from Oakland.’ And I was like, ‘No, I’m actually four hours from here, and I live in Indiana.’”

Brown’s sport was softball, and she played for four years at Oakland. She started in center field and batted sixth for a Golden Grizzlies team that went 26-17 before falling at the Evanston, Ill., regional in 2022.

Prior to Brown, Oakland had not been in an NCAA Tournament since 2015. The tournament appearance was just their fourth in school history.

“It literally was like a dream come true,” Brown said. “It was really surreal, first getting there and being able to practice and looking around and just taking it all in. But I think it meant a lot for the school. … Oakland is full of championship teams, and being able to just be a part of that and a part of something bigger than ourselves was absolutely amazing, and looking into the stands and seeing the younger generation watching and wanting to learn the game just made us all so happy. It was such a cool moment.”

Brown improved her batting average from .192 as a freshman to .243 as a sophomore to .291 as a junior to .301 as a senior, and she hit her first career homer – an unusual occurrence for a slap hitter like Brown – against Wisconsin-Green Bay on April 13.

“We didn’t end the season how we wanted to, but overall, the team chemistry was still there,” Brown said. “Everybody had so much fun, and honestly, I was just trying to enjoy every moment of the last season.”

Lauren Karn was the coach who recruited her to Oakland. Karn left last August to take the Maryland job, and assistant coach Samantha Henderson served as interim head coach this past spring.

Brown understood why Karn left Oakland.

“All of us were kind of shocked and obviously upset because she was an amazing coach and we were so lucky to have her,” Brown said. “But also, we were so happy for her because she has family over on the east coast, and it’s kind of where she grew up. So in all reality, it was an offer she couldn’t turn down, and she got to be reunited with family, so we were really happy for her.”

Brown’s in-season college practices typically ran from 2-5 p.m., and the team also lifted Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:45-7:45 a.m. The fall was “way harder,” according to Brown, where she said the team would have practices and more conditioning and lifting sessions.

“Whenever I went from high school to college, it was definitely a big change,” Brown said. “The lifting schedules, the conditioning, everything. It was all such a big change. Fall really prepares you, and it will definitely put your team to the test and your mental toughness to the test, but it’s so worth it when it pays off in the spring.”

And then there are the long drives. Brown said she has taken bus rides to Florida for softball that lasted from 20-22 hours.

“We always brought a speaker on the bus,” Brown said. “We always brought movies. So you could imagine, just watching movies and then going to karaoke, singing with the whole team. Every year we’d have the freshmen do freshman karaoke, where we got to pick a song for them and then they’d sing. So it was really fun just to bring them out of their shells. We also obviously did homework on the bus because we were traveling during the school year, but the bus rides were some of my favorite memories.”

Brown ran cross-country and track early in her athletic career, and she also played basketball for three different coaches – Tony Stesiak, Lisa Pflueger and Brian Jennings – while a Lady Z. Rochester won a basketball sectional title in 2020 under Jennings, and Brown led that team in scoring (9.9 points per game), assists (2.3 per game) and steals (2.2 per game).

“When I was younger, I tried just about every sport there was,” Brown said. “But basketball and softball were pretty much the main two I stuck with through high school. I ran when I was in middle school. … I would recommend anyone to play multiple sports. Every sport is different, and it works different parts of your body and different muscles, and I just think it’s good to play multiple sports instead of focusing on one so hard so you don’t get burned out. I think that a lot of people when they play a singular sport, by the time they get to high school and thinking about recruiting and playing in the future, they’re just so burned out on it.”

Brown got to see her school’s men’s basketball team win an NCAA Tournament game in March, and she said that she and her family traveled to Pittsburgh to watch the team fall to North Carolina State in the second round in March.

“It did feel familiar,” Brown said. “We were obviously so happy for them. We watched the games at our apartment, and we ended up actually going to Pittsburgh and watching them play N.C. State, so that was really fun. But people were even texting some of us, girls on the team from our sophomore year, ‘Oh my gosh, congratulations, that's so cool for Oakland.’ I was just super proud of our basketball team for one, but it gave Oakland some recognition for sure. I mean, whenever I tell people I went to Oakland, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, their basketball team made a run this postseason in the tournament. They had a really good win against Kentucky. Now less people ask me, ‘Oh, Oakland, California?’ Because it’s in Michigan.”

Brown majored in general management and minored in marketing while at Oakland, graduating in April. She will attend the University of Indianapolis next year and be a graduate assistant under softball coach Melissa Frost while also pursuing a master’s degree in sports management.

She wants to see if she likes coaching or if she would like to stay around sports in another capacity, such as within internal operations for a collegiate athletic department.

“I’ve known her obviously just through the softball world, but kind of family friends as well,” Brown said of Frost. “Rochester is a small town, so I kind of know everybody, but yeah, I knew her before.”

Brown said she saw this year’s Lady Zs win a sectional softball title. She also attended several Caston practices during their 2023 tournament run to the state finals and is friends with 2024 Caston grad Addison Zimpleman, who will play at Oakland’s Horizon League rival Purdue Fort Wayne starting next year.

Brown lost her own high school senior softball season in 2020 due to the pandemic, but looking back, she said she was one of the lucky ones.

“Obviously, I wanted to play my senior year, but I felt even worse for the people who weren’t going on to play collegiately,” Brown said. “Just because, I never got to play with my high school friends again on the softball team. So attending abruptly was really sad, but it also just made me so excited to get back out on the field again whenever I went back to Oakland.”


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