At 17, Sudenga facing and overcoming University challenges

The freshman spent her first semester at community college before joining the Gophers.

College, in itself, isn’t an easy thing to adjust to. But try doing it at the University in a leadership position like shortstop after spending one semester at a community college.

Oh, and try doing it as a 17-year-old.

Welcome to the life of freshman shortstop Brianna Sudenga, a girl that never even considered Minnesota until realizing just last summer she had an opportunity to play softball.

In fact, Sudenga said she wasn’t even sure what she wanted before getting noticed at a summer camp.

“I was just going to go to Bible school for a year and try to figure something out,” Sudenga said. “But I ended up coming to a camp, and I guess they liked what they saw.”

But it was too late for Sudenga to get in at Minnesota for the fall semester, meaning the future shortstop would have to go to Inver Hills Community College for a semester and try to work out on her own.

But even that challenge didn’t seem to faze Sudenga, who coach Lisa Bernstein said came into practice second semester without missing a beat.

Sudenga said she had help however, since her dad, who was also her high school coach, spent time driving her from Inver Hills to the Minnesota campus every other week because she didn’t have her license yet.

“He was on me all the time,” she said. “He was like, ‘You’ve got to be ready to go, you can’t just sit around and do nothing and expect to play at a Division I level.’ He pushed me really hard.”

It must have helped, as the shortstop has committed just three errors at her position so far this season. But then again, that may be because of her work ethic rather than her father’s.

“She’s the kind of kid who’s here early,” Bernstein said. “We have an optional 45 minutes before practice and she’ll be here just trying to get better. I think she’d rather be on the ball field than anything else.”

But despite the success, there were still bumps along the way, both on the field and in terms of transferring to the “huge” Minnesota campus, which she called a “culture shock.”

Senior outfielder Sila Fernandez said they were quick to smooth over any problem areas, however, mentioning one quick fix as a communication problem.

“I see her coming out of her shell a lot,” Fernandez said. “I guess it could be intimidating, coming in here in January when we’ve been here all year, but we made sure she knew that she’s just as much a part of the family, and she can talk and be comfortable.”

At 22 years old, Fernandez isn’t about to let one thing go, however, and that’s age.

“I take a little ribbing for it,” Sudenga said.

Fernandez said it’s more than a little ribbing.

“Oh, I remind her daily that she’s 17,” she joked.