Gracie Goulder wants one last swing.
It has almost nothing to do with the 4A Division I state quarterfinals loss to Phoenix Shadow Mountain, and everything to do with a 65 mile-per-hour baseball.
The Cactus Shadows shortstop grew up on the boys field. The youngest and only girl among five Goulder children, all her older brothers played baseball.
So, as she’s done in sports since infancy, she’s following along the paths of her older brothers, two of whom went to play baseball in Louisiana and North Carolina, and another is headed to Utah this fall.
But before she heads east to the University of Georgia with a chance to immediately compete for the Bulldogs’ starting shortstop spot, she wants to know if she can still hit a heater from one of her older brothers.
After all, it’s what she threw until high school from the mound and the middle infield on boys teams, before she played the first softball game of her life as a Falcons freshman.
“I grew up playing Little Leagues and middle school baseball, and I was pretty good compared to most guys, threw low 60s,” she said. “I contemplated playing baseball my freshman year instead. I heard one girl played in the minor league and one or two in college.
“It was a weird change (to softball). I hated throwing it because it was so big.”
She came around pretty quickly, took her rocket arm to shortstop and went from a weak-hitting freshman on a team that won six games, to setting 75 percent of the school’s softball records and the Tribune Player of the Year.
Somewhere between missing almost all her sophomore season due to shoulder surgery, and her 2011 season of a .767 on-base percentage, 1.075 slugging percentage, seven home runs, 50 runs, 46 stolen bases and a .937 fielding percentage, she figured it out.
“It was a good way to go out,” she said.
Already an on-base machine, her power didn’t arrive until midway through her junior season — after she committed to Georgia — and said she might do some switch-hitting in Athens.
Much to this state’s chagrin, she rooted for Florida against Arizona State in the Women’s College World Series last week, even as the Gators and Alabama will be her chief rivals for the next four years.
Arizona State didn’t show much interest in Goulder, and she didn’t care much for the city of Tucson when she visited Arizona (though she praised the softball program and campus). Stanford was intriguing, but Northwestern was a bit too cold.
Cactus Shadows’ progress the past four years overshadowed the annoying loss to Shadow Mountain that ended her high school career, but she made it this far having played the sport for four years, and it’s why she’s a bit giddy about what another four years could yield.
“I’ll play wherever, whenever,” she said. “I just want to play.”