Wesley’s Dalious at peace with career’s end

DOVER — Brandi Dalious remembers thinking something wasn’t right.

She and her Wesley College softball teammates were having a normal practice last Thursday afternoon.

“But there was just this weird vibe going on,” said Dalious. “The three seniors, we were like, ‘What’s going on? Nobody’s really telling us anything and they’re acting really strange with us.’”

Finally, though, Wolverines’ coach Juli Greep called her players together.

“I said, ‘Guys, this is coming to an end quickly,’” Greep remembered. “I had to rip their hearts out. It was awful. It was the worst day I’ve ever had as a coach to see those kids faces.”

The news, of course, was that Wesley’s season was over due to the threat of the coronavirus. Virtually every other college spring-sports athlete got the same message last week.

The silver lining for the Wolverines is that they have only three seniors on the roster — Dalious, Karina Cardona and Brooke Retkowski.

But the unexpected ending for Dalious — a Polytech High grad — is especially poignant considering what she’d already been through just to keep her college career alive.

Five years ago, the Harrington native was a freshman at NCAA Division I St. Francis (Pa.) when she was fielding a fly ball in a pre-season scrimmage. Dalious planted her left leg and her whole life changed.

“My knee went one way and my body went the other way,” said Dalious. “It was a pain that I’d never felt before. I’ve been injured before but, that pain, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody else.”

The damage to the ligaments in Dalious’ knee was pretty extensive. She had torn her ACL, sprained her LCL and torn both her meniscusi. She underwent surgery two weeks later and returned to the field after six months of rehab.

But Dalious re-injured her knee and had to undergo another procedure.

She finally made it all the way back, playing in 10 games for St. Francis in 2017. Dalious, however, was also realizing that the life of a Division I athlete wasn’t what she wanted.

Dalious wanted to get more out of college than just softball.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing Dalious said when she contacted Greep about transferring to Wesley was that she was willing to play wherever the Wolverines needed her. And Wesley needed a catcher.

So despite her knee injury, Dalious squatted down behind the plate for the last two seasons. She appeared in 58 games, although not always at catcher.

It was only this season that she moved to first base.

“Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s really ultimately what I like to do,” said Dalious, who was an outfielder earlier in her career. “I always joke, I always say now my knees feel like they’re 50 years old. I’ve had two surgeries on one and now I’ve been catching for two years.

“It’s hard on your body, for sure.”

In practices, Wesley had to modify some drills for Dalious this season because of her knee. Cutting as she ran around the bases was an issue, for instance.

Of course, what Dalious has always done better than anything is hit a softball.

A first-team All-Stater in 2014 at Polytech, she hit .500 as a sophomore on the Panthers’ state championship squad and .441 as a junior. In her two-plus seasons at Wesley, she hit .397 with 15 homeruns, five triples, 22 doubles, 49 runs and 75 RBI.

Greep said Dalious rarely disappointed her when she came up in clutch situations.

“If the game is on the line and people are on base, that’s the kid that I want with their bat in their hand,” said Greep. “She’s a gamer. She’d step up when you need her to.”    

The thing about being injured is that Dalious got to study the game from a different angle while she was sidelined. She feels like she understands the game so much better now as a 23-year-old.

Greep said its been great having a mature leader like Dalious to mentor Wesley’s younger players.

“This kid has passion,” said Greep. “She loves the game. She understands it on a different level than a lot of athletes do. And I think she has a different appreciation for it.

“She can talk to our student-athletes in a different way than some other kids can. We’re really lucky, we’ve got amazing upperclassmen that are great leaders. She was one of them.”

More than just playing softball, Dalious feels like she’s been able to be a full-fledged college student at Wesley. An accounting major, she was able to volunteer and get involved in more things on campus.

“At Wesley, I just felt as if I was a student-athlete but I was also a person,” she said. “People cared more about, ‘Are you feeling OK? Are you mentally OK?’ and things like that.”

The NCAA is going to give spring-sport athletes another year of eligibility because of the situation. But Dalious, who’s been playing softball since she was five years old in Harrington Little League, is leaning toward moving on.

It’s not because she’s tired of softball, it’s because she’s interested in becoming a coach.

“I always told Greep that, when it comes time (to stop playing), they’re going to have to drag me off the field because I don’t want to do anything else,” said Dalious. “I really just want to coach softball. I want to continue to give back to the community and continue to give back to the younger generation so they continue to elevate their skills.”

Before Wesley played what turned to be its last games, a doubleheader against Stevenson, the Wolverines had already started hearing that some teams had suspended their seasons.

Greep reminded her players that you never know for sure when your last game is going to come.

If it was her last game, Dalious said she’s at peace with that. She said she’s more bothered by the idea that college seniors might not get to go back to school or walk at graduation.

“I think I’ve just accepted that this is my last year,” she said. “I’m one of the few lucky cases — I got to play an extra year of softball (because of her injury). And I got to experience it with the best teammates I could ever experience it with this year.

“This team was just something different and it was something special.”