GLEN ELLYN – Johnsburg resident Brooke Klosowicz stood in the on-deck circle, took a few final practice swings, then prepared to face Kentucky commit Isabelle Harrison on July 12 at the Demarini Invitational Showcase.
It’s one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the country, featuring 40 teams comprised mainly of elite high school players from 17 states. But Klosowicz’s background is different.
As she dug into the right-handed batter’s box, then calmly drew a four-pitch walk against Harrison, Klosowicz was completely oblivious to what was going on only feet behind her. Coaches and scouts from five Division I schools – Tennessee, Wisconsin, Loyola, UIC and Penn State – were jotting down notes nearby while she hit.
On that day, there were 61 college coaches or scouts in attendance, the vast majority of them from D-I schools, according to a sign-in sheet at the event.
The thing is, Klosowicz, who plays for the Illinois Chill 14U travel team, just turned 13 on March 31, and hasn’t even started eighth grade. She was offered a spot on the Chill roster in February during an open house tryout in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at a training facility called Fielder’s Choice.
She was one of less than 10 percent of players who made the cut during the tryout, Demarini Invitational co-director Gerry Quinn said.
Klosowicz’s team did well enough July 12 and 13 during pool play that it gave the Chill an opportunity to face an 18U team Saturday, the South Dakota Renegades, in single-elimination play. In that game, Klosowicz got a base hit against pitcher Grace Glanzer, a South Dakota State commit four years older than her.
“This is my first year with the Chill program, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Klosowicz said. “It can be a bit nerve-wracking knowing people are suddenly watching my every move. But you know what? I’m not even worried about that yet. I’m just out here to have fun, and to learn and get better.”
Even if those scouting Klosowicz wanted to speak with her, they couldn’t because new rules passed by the NCAA this spring prohibit colleges from doing so until a player’s junior year. But an event like Demarini is serious business for coaches, and what happens there can make or break a player’s stock. In Klosowicz’s case, reaching base against multiple Division I-bound pitchers at her age almost certainly helped her cause.
“There may be a few tournaments here or there nationally where 14U teams play 16U teams on any given day, or 16U teams face 18U teams,” Quinn said. “But it’s very rare to have a 14U team like Brooke’s playing against an 18U squad. It’s part of what makes our event (in its ninth season) so unique. It’s a key reason so many college coaches attend our tournament each year.”
Klosowicz, who plays second base, third, shortstop and outfield, also homered in her first tournament with the Chill this summer, which she said gave her “tons of confidence.” And one of her overhand throws was clocked at
64 mph on a radar gun at a minicamp during the Demarini event. She’s disciplined, too.
“When you watch Brooke hit, one thing that really stands out is how rarely she strikes out, which is remarkable for someone her age,” Chill 14U coach and former Northwestern softball player Olivia Duehr said. “It would be so easy for her to be overwhelmed by all this. But she’s not.”
Perhaps that’s because as early as fifth grade, Klosowicz was invited to take part in practices with the Johnsburg High School varsity team by then-coach Ted Juske, now the school’s athletic director.
Klosowicz isn’t McHenry County’s only representative on the Chill 14U squad. Johnsburg’s Kate Linkletter, Huntley’s Reese Hunkins and Marian Central’s Jenna Golembiewski – who all will be sophomores this fall – are her summer teammates.
“Brooke is a student of the game,” Golembiewski said. “She’s not in that dugout just to be there taking up a roster spot. She notices little things, small but important details going on during the game, and brings them to our attention. She even gives advice to the rest of us sometimes. She oozes positivity. And best of all, she’s got one heck of a bright future ahead of her if she keeps working as hard as she has so far.”