By Patrick Tarbox
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
2015 has been an incredible season for Iowa State junior center fielder Brittany Gomez. With three weeks to go in the regular season, the Cyclone is nearing in on and breaking a plethora of school records, some of which have gone undisturbed for over 35 years.
Gomez, Iowa State’s lead-off hitter, is the Big 12’s leader in hits (72) and third in batting average (.431). She is closing in on school records in both categories, as well as re-setting her own season school record in a couple of other categories. She is also nearing the career school records in some categories that would be celebrated if she reached them in her senior season, much less her junior year.
“I feel blessed and thankful to be here playing softball, something I have been doing since I was five years old,” Gomez said. “It is something that makes my parents proud, and allows my siblings to know who I am, and so they can be proud of me.”
A New Braunfels, Texas native, family means quite a bit to Gomez, even though she is playing her trade hundreds of miles from her family.
“It is awesome to play when my family is there to see me,” Gomez noted, in an interview prior to a series at Baylor which her family would attend. “I have three younger siblings, and I want to be someone they look up to. I enjoy that I can play and be around them.”
Gomez is approaching and breaking records in three aspects of the game: hitting, stealing and scoring. All of them have their unique challenges and approaches for Gomez, and all are helping cement her 2015 season as one of the best in school history, and Gomez as one of Iowa State’s top players in program history.
Heading into this weekend’s series against Texas Tech, Gomez is leading the Big 12 in hits with 72 and is third in the conference with her .431 batting average. Gomez just missed out on becoming the second player in Iowa State history to hit .400 in a season in 2014. Heading into ISU’s final regular season game at Kansas, Gomez was just above the mark at .405, but an 0-for-4 afternoon saw her slip down to .397.
This season, Gomez is way ahead of that pace. To compare, Gomez is currently hitting .431 with six games to go in the regular season. The last time Gomez was that high in 2014 was on Apr. 5, with 21 games to go. Gomez has the chance to become the second player in school history to hit over .400 and, possibly, take down the school record for batting average in a season, currently at .435 by Mary Jo Collins in 1978.
When you combine her current season, her 2014 season and her ISU-freshman record .361 batting average from her freshman year, Gomez has a career batting average of .395, the highest in ISU history by almost 40 points.
The high average has meant a high total of hits for Gomez. With six games to go in the regular season, Gomez is up to 72 base hits on the year. Owner of three of the eight 60-hit seasons in ISU history and two of the three 70-hit campaigns, Gomez will be looking to chase down Iowa State’s record of 77 by Jenny Condon, the program’s only All-American, in 1988. Gomez just missed out last season with 75.
However, Gomez can take down a bigger record en route to attempting to beat the single-season hits record. She is currently on 213 career hits, only three away from tying and four from breaking Condon’s record of 216. It would mean a lot to Gomez to take down one of the crown jewel records of the Iowa State program.
“I really didn’t know about how close I was to the hits record until I read about it on cyclones.com,” Gomez said. “It is awesome. Being a junior, I can accomplish a lot more off of that next year. That has also helped motivate me on the steals, reading about how close I am to the numbers I put up as a freshman. I didn’t get as many last year, but I really want to get back to that level this year.”
To say Gomez had the school record for career stolen bases by the end of her sophomore season would do an injustice to how quickly she locked up the record. Gomez had the record secured before Big 12 games started, right at the halfway point of her sophomore season. Paced by her school-record 31 stolen bases her freshman year, Gomez had the record, previously 48 by Adi Blackmon. However, for Gomez’s standards, her sophomore season saw a regression, as she dropped to 24 steals as a sophomore.
2015 has been a renaissance for Gomez on the basepaths, as she sits second in the Big 12 with 29 steals. She has been on a hot streak as of late, posting steals in six consecutive games heading into the Baylor series last weekend, and tying a season high with three steals against Green Bay on Wednesday. The key has not been running fast, as much as Gomez’s confidence that she can run fast.
“Lately, I have been trying to think a lot about being confident in myself,” Gomez said. “Something I did well my freshman year, and am starting to do again is telling myself ‘I’m going to beat it out’. I was more iffy last year on whether I should go or not, because I do not want to cost my teammates a chance to drive me in.”
As a lead-off hitter, Gomez gets more at-bats than her teammates, but it is frequently with an empty or limited set on the bases. While that gives her the freedom to earn hits without the concern of getting other runners out, it also means she relies on her teammates to bring her home (she only has two home runs among her 125 career runs).
“I could never do any of what I have done without my teammates,” Gomez noted. “I depend on them to move me over, and I cannot do it all on my own. They are there to bring me in, and it is a great feeling when I score, because it means my teammates did something positive and that helps me out.”
Gomez is Iowa State’s career runs scored leader with 125, breaking Condon’s career record of 120 last Tuesday at Drake with a pair of runs. Her freshman year, Gomez broke ISU’s school record for runs in a season with 50.
Gomez’s ability to get on base has helped fuel her teammates’ success. In 2013, three-time All-Big 12 first baseman Erica Miller broke ISU’s single-season school record for RBIs with 52 and earned the career RBIs record with 149. Last season, the main beneficiary was Aly Cappaert, with ISU’s designated player recording the second-most RBIs in a Cyclone season with 45. 2015 has seen Lexi Slater drive in the runs, with the Cyclone shortstop’s 40 RBIs being tied for the fifth-most in a season in school history.
The run Gomez is on in 2015 has been one of the best in Cyclone history, and will give her a great opportunity to pick up an All-America nod. Her accomplishments would make for a great career, but there is still a full season to come. Stay tuned.