On a recent trip home, Bree Loon picked up a softball and tossed it around a bit.

It was the first time in ages the former standout hurler at Jay had done anything with the sport she dominated. Following her father and sister to a pitching session, Loon briefly got back into the act herself.

“She was pitching, and I was just kind of sitting there,” Loon said of her sister, Daydra. “I tossed the ball around a few times. It felt really good, but the last time I really pitched at all seriously was in the last game against Rhode Island last year.”

Loon made an immediate impact at the University of Southern Maine a year ago. She became one of the Huskies top pitchers, but decided not to play this year. Trying to juggle softball with classes became a monumental challenge.

“I was just so drained,” Loon said. “We had gone to Florida. I got strep throat. I was getting colds, and I didn’t have time to catch up on my schoolwork. It was all coming at me. We had two weeks left of school, and all this extra stuff I had to make up and finals. When we had to go to Rhode Island and play those playoff games, for me, it was too overwhelming. It really took a toll on me.”

Loon decided to maintain her focus in the classroom. She’s spending her first spring without softball since she first took up the sport in elementary school. She misses it at times and misses her former teammates, but she’s also sure it was the right choice.

“I feel good about the decision,” Loon said. “It’s hard enough to go through classes as it is right now, and I’m not even playing. I do miss it, but I feel like I made the right decision.”

Loon finished with a whopping 769 strikeouts at Jay. She had 246 her senior year while posting 11 shutouts and a 0.18 earned run average. She walked just three batters as her Tigers went 15-1. A perennial MVC all-star, she was the Western C Player of the Year and the Sun Journal Player of the Year as a senior.

She originally went to Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire, but after her first semester there, she chose to be closer to home. At USM, Loon became the club’s No. 2 pitcher behind former Erskine star Katie Mainville.

In 18 starts, Loon went 10-8 with a 1.77 earned run average. She had 110 strikeouts and five shutouts.

Halfway through the season, college life began to catch up. Between classes, illness and softball, Loon found it hard to focus and succeed in all aspects. When she started to concentrate more on her schoolwork, her pitching suffered, and she lost four or five games in a row.

“I was saying, ‘I can’t wait until the last game comes,'” Loon said. “It was getting tiring for me.”

Over the summer, she started thinking about not playing softball. The hardest part was actually telling others, including her father.

“He loves softball like I do,” she said. “He obviously recognizes that school is more important. He’s been with me the whole way through, so it was hard for him.”

It was hard when the season started. She missed the camaraderie and the game she still loves. When the team went to Florida, she couldn’t help but be jealous. At the same time, Loon knew she had made the right decision.

“I knew I could play softball four years and do great and get records and stuff, but in the end, what am I going to do with a degree with a C-minus average?” she said. “I think that was a big part of it, just realizing that I need to focus on school. Balancing both was something that was very challenging for me.”

Loon has not yet determined if her decision is just a one-year break or permanent.

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” she said. “Most likely, I don’t think I will, where I’ve already been out a year, and I haven’t been practicing or anything. It’s up in the air right now.”

Loon is changing her major to health and fitness. Interested in pursuing a career in the fitness and nutrition, the field involves a challenging course load. With that in mind, a return to the game seems unlikely.

“I’ve already lost a lot of weight in the arm,” Loon said. “I can see it because you kind of bulk up during the year. I can already tell I’ve already lost a lot of what I had before. I’d probably have to start pretty much now if I was thinking seriously of getting back into it. If not, I’d really have to work hard the rest of the offseason.”

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