During what was already an emotional day, Brynn Hostettler finalized a decision on where she planned to attend college.
Hostettler, a Northfield junior who celebrated her 17th birthday Wednesday, spent the day touring the University of Minnesota, and more specifically, gathering specs on the school’s softball program.
By the end of the tour, which started at 8:30 a.m. and stretched for just over 12 hours, Hostettler determined she didn’t need any more information or time to ruminate on her potential college destination. She committed that night to play softball at the University of Minnesota, which last season advanced to its first Women’s College World Series, and became the first Northfield softball player in program history to make a commitment to a Division I program.
“I was really excited,” Hostettler said. “I got in the car and I called my (club) coach right away and she was really excited. Then the next day I was still kind of in shock and was really in shock until I announced (Thursday) and could actually tell people. I’m really excited, obviously, and I’m still shocked.”
She had no designs of making a decision that soon when she and her family drove up to Minneapolis that morning, but sensed she was nearing one soon.
As the day wore on, and she met with academic advisers, athletic advisers, the coaching staff and observed the team’s first practice of the season, Hostettler started to feel more and more certain there wasn’t much point in dragging the process out any longer. More importantly, her parents sensed that feeling.
“I didn’t think I would do it right on the spot,” Hostettler said, “but when we were there my parents were like, ‘You know you want to go here, so you might as well just tell them now.’”
After a stretch of wanting to attend school and potentially play softball out of state, she decided four or five years ago she wanted to stay closer to home for school. A lifelong Golden Gophers fan, that left one target school to hit.
“It’s a pretty exciting time to have a kid commit to play Division I softball and then have it be at a local college so we can all cheer for her,” Northfield coach Ryan Pietsch said.
Hostettler and her family moved to Northfield at the start of the 2018-19 school year, meaning Pietsch has only coached the hard-throwing pitcher for a season. It didn’t take long for him to realize the talent resting in her right arm.
In the team’s first game of the season at Farmington, which advanced to the Class AAAA state tournament, Hostettler entered the game in relief and fired 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs and striking out 10 to earn the win.
“We saw what she could do in practice, but you never really know,” Pietsch said. “Then we got up there in that Farmington game and we saw what she was capable of and I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got something special here.’”
She only improved from that point, allowing just three earned runs through the next 10 games, which featured seven complete games and five shutouts. The season’s only blip came in a 5-1 loss against Mankato West.
In the second matchup between the two teams in the Class AAA state finals, Hostettler allowed only two earned runs, two hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters in the 8-3 victory. In three state tournament games, she struck out 38 batters in 20 innings and surrendered only two earned runs.
“She works tirelessly at her craft, puts in a ton of work and it’s nice to see that get rewarded with this,” Pietsch said. “Obviously, throughout the year you saw her get better and better throughout the year and she just showed everyone. She got her name out there in the section tournament and then in the state tournament she really proved how good of a pitcher she is, especially on a big stage like that with that pressure.”
Hostettler doesn’t point to that state tournament performance for her clarity moment of realizing she might be able to play Division I softball. Instead, that came in the summer, at a club tournament in Colorado littered with Division I coaches from around the country.
After what she felt was her best game of the tournament, Hostettler’s coach informed her a Divsion I coach was in attendance to watch her pitch.
“The coaches were just walking around everywhere,” Hostettler said. “I had that game and my coach said there was somebody there to watch me. That’s when I realized I could make it to play Division I.”