Phoenix College’s softball program is no stranger to recognition—this time, the team's pitcher is drawing attention for her record-setting stats.
Brianna Hardy has become the most decorated student athlete in the history of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and PC.
PHOENIX, March 31, 2022 - Brianna Hardy, or “Breezy,” as her teammates call her, has received many accolades as pitcher of the Phoenix College (PC) Softball team. Her most recent breakthroughs, however, tell the story of an athlete whose hard work, and consistent performance, have shined over four seasons. On March 22, she struck out her thousandth batter, in a game against Paradise Valley Community College.
The milestone comes just a few weeks before Hardy is expected to secure her hundredth game victory. At this moment, she stands at 98-2 in her collegiate career—just two games away from becoming the first pitcher in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) history to reach 100 wins with her team. “The secret is that she has at least six different pitches,” said PC's Head Softball Coach Heinz Mueller, who elaborated, “they vary in speed, and hitters have a hard time adjusting at the plate.”
Hardy's skill on the pitcher's mound has contributed to the Bears' successes in two NCJAA Championship tournaments: they won in 2021; and placed second, in 2019. “She's made me proud,” said Mueller. “I've never been around a player like her, in over three decades here. She's incredibly gifted, and executes her skills to the max.”
Hardy has been called out as a First Team All-American Athlete by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and the NJCAA, on two occasions. Likewise, she's also been twice-recognized as Player of the Year, and Pitcher of the Year, by those organizations. In 2021, she received the Betty Jo Graber Award for Best Female Athlete in the NJCAA; and was also designated Most Valuable Player of the 2021 National Championship tournament.
According to Mueller, Hardy's successes are about athleticism and character. “She's very humble—a great attribute for a pitcher. Brianna is also self-confident on the mound: she wants perfection, and works hard to achieve it. I just sit back and watch her command the game, like no one else can...she's very easy to coach.”
Since its founding in May of 1938, the NJCAA has never recognized such a highly-awarded individual player. Likewise, in PC's 102-year history, no student has attained this level of athletic achievement while at the College. When Interim President, Dr. Clyne G. H. Namuo was asked about his thoughts on Hardy's achievements, he said, “Brianna exemplifies the Heart of the Bear. Her hard work and determination have made her a legend on the field, and in the classroom, as a student-athlete at PC. She's making history as we speak."
Due to COVID-19, athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility since entire seasons across the country were all but canceled. “The bar had already been set pretty high, by years of champions in the Phoenix College softball program. But what Brianna accomplished, during a pandemic, will truly go down in history,” said PC Athletic Director, Kristine Kincaid. “I'm honored to have witnessed her successes, and think she'll achieve more.”
When asked about her future plans, Hardy remains committed to hard work both on, and off, the field. “I didn’t necessarily set out for the goal of 1000 Strikeouts. I focused on my mechanics as a young pitcher, and carried that training through my years. I’m proud of reaching this milestone, and I just hope to continue achieving.” Hardy plans to stay in Arizona to finish out her collegiate softball career, since she only has one year of eligibility left. Her goal is to keep her ERA (earned runs average) below 1.0 through the remainder of the season, and to graduate from PC this spring, with an Associate Degree in General Studies.
When asked if she has advice for young people aspiring to play collegiate sports, Hardy recommends staying open to athletics at the Community College level. In terms of her personal reflections, she insists that perseverance is key. "Don’t let one setback impact your passion and drive." Instead, athletes should, "strive for the next level...and remain competitive," since it's all part of achieving your best.
Want to learn more about Phoenix College collegiate sports? Visit the Athletics Site at pcbearsathletics.com.
Above: From Left, 2021-'22 Teammates: Natalie Castro, Elisabeth Raby, Brianna Hardy, and Ali Ashner.
Below: Phoenix College Softball Head Coach, Heinz Mueller, pictured with Hardy.
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Phoenix College is the flagship of the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. Established in 1920, PC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates and short-term job training.
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