A historic opposite-field home run in mid-April does not even begin to tell the story of Brooke Goad. Neither do an almost unfathomable and never-before-reached number of walks, especially for arguably one of the greatest power hitters to ever take the field at the NCAA Division II level.
The career of the 2013 Waxahachie High School graduate turned Southern Arkansas University softball legend cannot possibly be written without the mention of perseverance.
After all, as Goad dug into in the left-handed batter's box April 14 on the campus of SAU, she did so with a surgically repaired left knee. Well, a three-time surgically-repaired left knee.
She just so happened to use that knee to trot around the bases seven-and-a-half dozen times and into four categories of three all-time record books.
The first ACL tear came in 2014, one game over the halfway mark of her freshman season. Goad still managed to accumulate 15 home runs, 20 walks, and 38 hits in her first 36 games a Lady Mulerider.
She then sat the rest of the season and had surgery over the summer.
Nine games into her sophomore season, Goad suffered a second ACL tear during the second tournament of the season. She had two home runs in those nine games.
The injury was to the same left knee. This time, though, Goad was awarded a medical redshirt, which provided her a fifth year of eligibility.
Fresh off of back-to-back surgeries and rehab stints, Goad, then a red-shirt sophomore, blasted 23 home runs in 2016 to break the program and Great American Conference single-season record on the way to a Division II College World Series appearance in Denver.
The knee again gave her issues in early 2017, her redshirt junior season. Goad suffered a slight ACL tear — yep, the same knee — and then completely tore the ligament sliding into third base a few games later.
"I sat out a week and did a little bit of rehab. Then I played the rest of the season without an ACL, and we just taped up my knee really good. I mean, when I talk tape, we brought a whole new meaning to taping up a knee," Goad said. "It was crazy and on top of wearing a knee brace."
On virtually one leg, Goad still managed to slug 18 home runs in 58 games with a .349 batting average, .771 slugging percentage, and 50 walks to just 26 strikeouts. She also drove in 46 runs, recorded 16 doubles and committed two errors with 66 putouts in the field (.971 FLD%).
The last stat is one of the lesser-discussed elements of her game. In fact, Goad was charged with just 14 errors (255 putouts) to the tune of a .949-career fielding percentage while patrolling the outfield for the Lady Muleriders.
"I think everyone forgets that I play in the outfield and just thinks I just hit home runs," she humbly admitted. "But, hey, I mosey around in the outfield sometimes, too."
But we digress. Let's get back to the ACL.
As a "repeat offender," Goad went in for a third surgery in June. It was her first with James B. Montgomery, MD in Dallas. Goad was interning at Southern Methodist University during the fall, which helped the surgical and recovery process. She was able to drive across town for any follow-up examinations as opposed to traveling from Magnolia, Arkansas.
"I am engineered to tear ACLs apparently," said Goad as she explained the procedure in medical terms that most would have to Google to properly spell or identify. "It was a different surgery than the first two.
"That surgery was nuts. It was super painful and was not something that I have ever had to endure until that time."
She later needed a knee scope to remove scar tissue and then battled a deep-bone bruise as her redshirt-senior season approached.
Goad said she spent a lot of time talking to God and doctors, asking if it was time for her to hang up the cleats.
Thankfully, neither obliged.
When prodded, Goad admitted both she and the SAU trainers would be hard-pressed to label her as every being at full strength during the 2018 campaign.
"Adrenaline just takes over when you step back onto the field," she explained. "You don't really think about stuff like that when you step out onto the field. You play through the pain. When you love something you just.... you just do it."
So on that historic night in April, Goad recalled stepping into the box unsure if she was even going to see a strike. She then sent a changeup over the right-center-field fence for the 80th home run of her career, making her the all-time leader in Division II history.
"I felt really out in front of it," Goad said. "I didn't think it was going to go out until I rounded first and heard someone in the outfield yell, 'That's it! That's the one!’ And, sure enough, that was 80.”
"It was super cool because it happened at home in front of all of our fans and community, and we have the best community and best president and first lady that you can ask for. And my parents were there, too. It was a very special moment."
A view and call from the cheap seats! #NCAATop10 #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/S37NuU3yw4
— Mulerider Athletics (@MuleriderSports) April 15, 2018 She launched 10 more long balls to close out her senior year with a new all-time single-season (32) and career (90) home run record for the Lady Mulerider program, Great American Conference, and DII.
Typically, a power hitter racks up quite a few strikeouts and rarely walks, as they are prone to swing for the fences. But not Goad. She also owns the SAU, GAC and DII single season (91) and career record (218) for base-on-balls.
Obviously, Goad would rather take her hacks at the plate than draw a free pass. It's only natural for any ballplayer to want to jog around the bases.
Sometimes, such as during a four-game series April 8—9 against Henderson State, she had no choice. She was walked 12 times in 14 plate appearances.
"I don't like not being able to hit and help out my team. But, if I am getting walked and that is what I have to do to help my team win, then that is what I am going to have to do. I just stand in the box and hope they pitch to me."
Because of her superior plate discipline, Goad found her way on base in the first 50 games of the season before a 0-for-4 day April 20 against Arkansas Tech. Despite the 0-for, Goad had drawn 41 free passes over a three-week span March 30 — April 21.
It was also the last — and only — game of her senior season that she failed to reach base safely.
The Lady Muleriders finished the season with a 60-11 record, which included a 38-6 run through conference play, before falling in the semifinals of the DII College World Series.
Goad was on base in all but one of those 71 games — either by hit, walk or briefly as she trotted around after a round-tripper — on the way to a career-best .613 on-base percentage.
Goad is quick to admit her father, Steve, or an SAU sports information director is usually the first to tell her of any statistical feats or records. So, unsurprisingly, she had no idea of either streak.
"No way? That's crazy," Goad laughed. After giving a little thought to the one word to describe the feat, she settled on "discipline."
"In order to hold a walk record, you have to be disciplined at the plate. When you are a power hitter, and you can ask [professional softball player] Lauren Chamberlin or any of those great hitters, you are going to get a lot of junk pitches in hopes that you are going to swing at it and pop up.
“I had to learn that the hard way in 2016. I kept swinging at everything,” she continued. "[...] You have to be disciplined at the plate. So that is the word I am going to use."
Goad recalls her father telling her at an early age that she was “born to be a power hitter."
"Everything I know I have learned from my dad. Power hitting was from him, and he taught me all the way up until I was 15 or 16. I hit quite a few home runs in high school, and I remember going back and forth with Ariel (Ortiz) and Miranda Herron a lot."
Ortiz, a 2014 Waxahachie grad, set the single-season Texas State home run record (15) in 2017 and finished her career this year with the all-time program record (39).
So where did Goad find her swing to more than double the home run total of a fellow slugger and former teammate?
"[...] I think I peaked when I got to college. I worked hard and spent a lot of time in the cages with a tee working front hand and backhand [drills] and it just kind of came for me."
Take notes, kids: one of the most prolific power hitters in NCAA softball history credits extensive tee work in the cages, not front toss or on-field batting practice, for her successes at the plate.
"Tee work is crucial. You can be an awesome front toss hitter but if you are not disciplined.... and that is what I tried to tell my teammates, and as I move into my coaching career I will still say that you have to trust the process and do the small things," Goad explained. "In order to do the big things you have to do the small things right, and that is a very key aspect that people are missing out on. You can't just expect to step out on the field and expect to get the job done."
Goad admitted the transition into a “has-been” has not yet set in, nor has the full weight of her illustrious career.
As for the future, she already has plans to coach in some capacity at SAU as soon as the fall. Goad said she hopes to continue to instill the importance of preparation and discipline on future softball teams, regardless of the level.
"You have to be mentally ready and focused on seeing the things in front of you and being able to handle adversity the correct way in order to be successful. And not everybody can do that," Goad said. "It is sometimes hard to teach, and I feel like a lot of kids these days lack that mental toughness, and it is not something that is taught anymore, and everyone is so sensitive these days. I just hope that, whenever I become a coach, I can help bring that back to my girls."
And, maybe one day, she’ll use the approach she perfected as a player to help someone to break one of her records. We certainly have no reason to bet against it.
But until that day comes, let’s all tip our hats and remember how Brooke Goad overcame the odds to become the NCAA’s newest all-time home run queen.