CHESHIRE — Growing up, Bri Pearson of Cheshire has developed a hard work ethic in all facets of her life. Whether she is pitching in the softball circle or dedicating time in the classroom, Pearson feels strongly about balancing her responsibilities.
When it came down down to picking a college as a rising senior student-athlete, Pearson was drawn to the opportunity to pursue nursing and pitch on the Division II level at Adelphi University on Long Island.
“As soon as I walked on the campus at Adelphi, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” said Pearson, a three-year starter for the Rams. “I’m super-excited to go there.”
For Pearson, playing college softball has been a long-time dream. She considered Division I UMass-Lowell, the alma mater of her high school coach, Kristine Drust. She also looked at Division I University of Hartford and Division III Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
Ultimately, she chose to play for an Adelphi program that made eight straight NCAA appearances prior to the coronavirus-interrupted season of 2020. Carla Campagna coaches the Panthers, who are a rival of Southern Connecticut in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“It is very exciting to know all the success they have had,” Pearson explained. “It was also important seeing their family dynamic. It reminds me a lot of what I have in Cheshire with the Rams.”
In touring Adelphi in July, Pearson spoke to the head of the Nursing Department about what she could expect as a student-athlete.
“He talked about how communication is going to be important to balancing academics and athletics,” Pearson said. “School has always been a priority to me. That is what sets you up for life.”
On the diamond, Pearson wants to hit and pitch in college.
“Hitting has always been my favorite aspect of softball,” stated Pearson. “Adelphi is giving me the chance to hit and pitch, but it means that I have work harder to get that opportunity.”
In the circle, Pearson typically uses three or four pitches a game.
“I’m always trying to make them better,” she said.
She believes that Cheshire pitching coach Kelly Hennessey has played a key role in her development.
“I love her. Kelly is a coach and a friend,” stated Pearson. “She has helped me physically and mentally on the mound.”
At Cheshire, Pearson has excelled since her freshman year. When she was younger and living in Southington, her softball career began on a much smaller scale.
“I started out as a dancer,” recalled Pearson. “My dad played baseball, so he suggested that I try softball.”
In joining the Southington Lightning program, Pearson was inserted as the No. 4/5 pitcher on her team, but when two players left the program and another girl got injured, she moved into the lineup.
“I really appreciated the opportunity,” said Pearson. “It was definitely nerve wracking, but I had older teammates there to support me.”
Pearson rapidly improved her skills with the Lightning. In eighth grade, she switched to the Cheshire Wildcats program and then moved to Cheshire for high school.
“My team was splitting up at that time, so I decided to make a change,” explained Pearson. “I liked having school and softball friends separate, but when I came to Cheshire, knowing people made the transition 100 percent easier.”
Pearson had an immediate impact as a freshman, helping the Rams advance to the 2018 Class LL semifinals. In the cleanup spot, she batted .419 with 31 hits, 18 RBI and a team-high three home runs.
“It was a good feeling to start in my first year,” recalled Pearson. “I knew that I had to work harder to get better.”
As the backup to No. 1 pitcher Natalie Amato, Pearson won two games as a freshman.
“Playing in high school is different than travel (softball),” explained Pearson. “Watching Nat helped me in the long run.”
After Amato graduated in 2018, Pearson enjoyed a stellar sophomore season as starting pitcher, posting a 23-4 record with a 1.40 earned run average, 215 strikeouts and three no-hitters.
She also hit .350 with three home runs and 20 RBIs that spring en route to receiving All-Class LL and All-SCC First Team honors.
For pitching, Pearson credited catcher Jade Barnes, a 2019 graduate, for holding her accountable on the field.
“Jade has become one of my best friends. We hang out twice a week now,” said Pearson. “Having that chemistry behind the plate makes such a big difference.”
In one of her favorite games as a sophomore, Pearson had the opportunity to play Southington. She loved hitting a home run to tie the game at 1-1. Southington went up 3-1, but Cheshire used RBI hits from sisters Danielle and Bri Floyd to walk off with a 4-3 win.
“It was so awesome. Most of those Southington girls were my former teammates and people that I grew up with,” said Pearson. “The ending of that game is something I’ll remember forever.”
During that same season, Pearson helped the Rams win the SCC Tournament. In the finals, Cheshire rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 over North Haven in eight innings.
“Those (championship) games are high pressure,” said Pearson, who clinched the crown with a strikeout. “To get the win was indescribable.”
Cheshire reached the Class LL semifinals for the fifth straight year in 2019, but lost 4-2 to Norwich Free Academy.
“After that experience, we were even more motivated to get back there,” Pearson recalled.
Pearson looked forward to her junior season, but it never got out of the gate due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Not having a season was upsetting, especially for the seniors, but we’ll always remember that experience with all of the Zoom calls we had,” stated Pearson. “Team 2020 will only make us stronger for years to come.”
While not seeing action, Pearson still led the Rams as a co-captain with seniors Lindsey Abramson, Ari Perlini, and Emma Watkinson.
“It was an incredible opportunity that I was granted,” reflected Pearson. “This team has given so much to me that I thought it was time to give back to them.”
Pearson feels that Coach Drust and her assistant, Jaymie Sommers, have helped her develop as a leader and person.
“They have so much love for all of the girls,” stated Pearson. “It is such a great feeling to have someone who cares so much about you and would do anything for you.”
After working on her skills at home this spring, Pearson has liked being able play softball again this summer with the Cheshire Wildcats 18-U team.
“There is so much appreciation to be back out there,” Pearson said.
She loves getting to work with catcher Trinadey Santiago on the club and high school levels. As a junior last year, Santiago moved from Danbury to Cheshire.
“It is really exciting to have her at CHS, too,” said Pearson. “Trinadey and I have been friends for a long time.”
Along with the pitcher-catcher relationship, Pearson finds it helpful to work with pitchers like Cheshire rising sophomore Karissa Spring.
“Karissa and my sister (Ava) are best friends,” said Pearson. “It is good to have someone who can push you to get better.”
While she is five years older than her younger sister, Pearson likes that they share a passion for softball.
“It is awesome to play catch with your sister. (Softball) has helped us draw closer,” said Pearson. “Without my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They have showed me so much love and support.”
Pearson is already mentally preparing for her senior season next spring.
“When people tell you that your first three years fly by, you don’t believe it. I want to get closer with my teammates and cherish every moment. Not having a (spring) season this year adds more fuel to the fire. When we step on the field again, there will be a lot of excitement.”