Jess Brown packed more memorable experiences into the month of June than most people do in a lifetime.

Brown’s month began with her rubbing elbows with actor Patrick Dempsey at the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and ended with her 18th birthday. In between, Brown pitched Portland’s softball team to a playoff victory, served as the valedictorian of her senior class and became the inaugural Female Academic Ace Award winner at the Varsity Maine Awards.

“The last month was a punctuation mark on everything I’ve worked for,” said Brown. “It’s been stressful, but it’s also been fun. I was surprised (to win the Academic Ace Award). I didn’t prepare anything because I didn’t want to jinx it.”

Brown became an elite pitcher for the Bulldogs, but when she entered high school, she didn’t expect to make her mark athletically.

“I didn’t really think sports would be where I excelled,” Brown said. “I came into a new volleyball program, I played freshman basketball and wasn’t great, and in softball, I just wanted to make varsity.”

As a sophomore, Brown pitched Portland to its first playoff win in a decade. As a junior, Brown led the Bulldogs to the regional final in Class A South for the first time since 2004, earning the prestigious Maine Gatorade Softball Player of the Year award in the process.

“Jess put our program back on the map and got a lot of recognition,” said Portland Coach Robbie Ferrante. “You need a special player to get a program back, and she was the spark plug. She did it all, hitting and pitching.”

In her final softball season this spring, Brown went 10-7, striking out 205 batters and walking just 30 in 123 innings. She also had a batting average of .361, scored 20 runs and drove in 16.

Brown finished her high school softball career with 30 victories, two saves, an ERA of 2.38 and 467 strikeouts. She hit .368, scored 46 runs and drove in 42.

Brown then gave the senior class valedictory address, something she found much more stressful than facing a slugger with the bases loaded.

“I was much more nervous (speaking),” said Brown. “I’m confident when I’m pitching.

“I was strong in the classroom, but I didn’t think I’d be the valedictorian. From a young age, my parents instilled a work ethic in me, but they let me push myself, too. I always wanted to do more, like taking harder classes.”

Brown’s ability to juggle athletics and academics wasn’t just evident in the spring. Brown impressed during the volleyball season as well, leading the team in service aces (85), which led Coach Joe Russo to nominate her for the Academic Ace Award.

“Jess was instrumental in helping our volleyball program grow from its infancy into making a playoff appearance,” Russo said. “What makes Jess a special student-athlete is her attitude and coachability. She listens to her coaches and teachers and strives to excel.”

Brown had many options when it came to college, but she ultimately, at the last possible minute, chose the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School.

“I just had a gut feeling about Penn,” said Brown. “(Going on to college is) exciting, but it’s sad, too.

“Hopefully, I won’t peak at 18.”

Based on the month of June alone, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that she will.


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