Raelee Brabham remembers very little about the night her final season of high school softball ended almost before it started.
Brabham, an all-state pitcher and senior at Berkeley High, is reminded of the seriousness of her injury every time she looks down at her once-shattered ankle.
In a game against Hanahan on March 7, Brabham was racing down the first base line in the first inning. A collision occurred right at the first base bag that caused Brabham to hit the base awkwardly, sending her to the ground in pain and ending a season that began with high expectations.
“It really is all a blur,” said Brabham, who has already signed to play softball at Coastal Carolina. “I remember hearing a crack and knew something was wrong but I really was kind of in shock I guess.”
Her injuries included a broken tibia and fibula, as well as a dislocated ankle. She had surgery that required nine screws, two metal plates and a steel rod placed to stabilize the foot. Brabham has progressed well and will begin physical therapy in the coming weeks. Doctors have said she will be back to 100 percent by the end of the summer.
“It was very hard to see someone who has put so much into our program suffer that serious of an injury,” Berkeley coach Kelley Dillon said. “Just a freak accident.”
Instead of stepping away from the game and working privately to heal in preparation for her college career, Brabham decided to stay involved as an “assistant coach.” Her experience and vast knowledge as a pitcher has benefitted her replacement, freshman pitcher Gracie Decuir, who has helped Berkeley build an 8-4 record this season (6-0 in Region 7-AAAAA).
“Raelee has been a tremendous asset, not only to Gracie but to the entire team,” Dillon said. “She was already a huge leader in the program but her injury has really allowed her to become very involved in so many other ways. She has never let this injury detract her from her role as a leader. She has a great spirit about her and she loves this team. Her influence has been huge for us.”
Dillon, who played at College of Charleston and South Carolina, remembers an injury her senior year at South Carolina that led her into coaching and set her career path. She feels Brabham can do the same with her injury. Brabham agrees.
“My goal always has been to one day be a college pitching coach and being able to do what I am this year really tells me I can do this,” said Brabham, a first-team Post and Courier All-Lowcountry selection in 2018. “Sitting on the side has given me a totally different look at the game and what goes into the strategies of trying to win. I am learning a lot about the game and it’s been very cool that coach Dillon has allowed me to help.”
After getting over the initial shock of losing one of their best players, the Stags have been putting together a solid season. Senior catcher Hailey Wilkerson and senior outfielders Alexus Shreve and Brooklyn Stueness have provided leadership and production at the plate.
Decuir has been very consistent in the circle and third baseman Allison Hewitte has logged quality innings as well. Sophomore shortstop Jersey Silver, the team’s leadoff hitter, is developing into a Division I prospect, according to Dillon.
“Losing Raelee was also big in the lineup because she hit in the middle of the order, but we have some veteran players who have really stepped up,” the coach said. “We had a period of adjustment, had to figure some things out. And, we just needed the girls to get over the injury and to understand that it was still their team and they could win. Raelee has helped a lot in that area. She is so positive and such a great teammate.”