Hudson’s O’Brien focusing on the long term

Hudson’s Grace O’Brien makes solid contact during a game as a sophomore on the Raider softball team. O’Brien, a two-time All-Big Rivers Conference First Team selection as a freshman and sophomore, missed her junior season due to the pandemic and is being forced to sit out her senior year after suffering a full meniscus tear in her knee during the basketball season. File photo

To say Grace O’Brien was lighting things up as a freshman and sophomore on the Hudson softball team would be an understatement.

O’Brien started every game for the Raiders her first two years, batting .421 with a .488 on-base percentage as a freshman and hitting .543 with a .590 on-base percentage the following year.

She was a first team all-conference and first team all-district player in 2018 and all-state second team, all-district first team and unanimous all-conference first team during the Raiders 2019 conference championship season.

After the COVID pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 season, O’Brien was looking forward to ending her high school career on a high note as a senior in 2021. But the talented multi-sport athlete suffered a total tear of the meniscus in her right knee early in the Raider girls’ basketball season, ending not only her senior year of basketball but sidelining her for the softball season as well.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to play this year, O’Brien said she’s focused on the future.

“It's definitely unfortunate that I won't be able to play my senior year of softball, but I think what I really want is a healthy knee in the long run for college and the rest of my life,” she said. “So I guess it's kind of fortunate in some ways that it happened now than in college. It's difficult, but it could be worse.”

Oh yeah, college.

O’Brien was so good as a freshman, and during summer club ball, she caught the attention of University of Wisconsin-Madison coach Yvette Healy, who offered her a spot on the Badger softball team before her sophomore season. O’Brien accepted the offer the next day and made it official by signing her national letter of intent during the early signing period last November.

In a press release announcing O’Brien’s signing, Healy called her “one of the most impressive student-athletes in the state of Wisconsin.”

“She has a rocket arm at shortstop, covers a ton of ground and is never afraid to leave her feet,” Healy stated. “Grace's speed on the bases makes her threat to score every time she reaches base. Grace is a brilliant student with tremendous grades and service leadership.”

O’Brien injured her knee just a month after commiting to the Badgers. She had surgery the day before her birthday, Jan. 19, but was back on the bench with her basketball teammates-- crutches and all-- as soon as she could to help contribute to the Raiders’ historic state runner-up season.

“That was so fun,” she said. “They're just so fun to be around. And I was just glad to be able to play the games that I did play because we had such a great season.”

While she won’t be playing softball this year, O’Brien said she’ll be doing all she can from the bench to help the Raiders win another conference title.

“I'll definitely be coaching a lot more this year,” she said. “I do that every year but it'll be my focus this year. Because I can’t demonstrate intensity I’ll be more vocal about teaching the younger girls about the mental side of the game and helping them with things like form.”

A member of the National Honor Society, and a three-time academic all-conference and academic letter winner, O’Brien intends to major in mechanical engineering at Wisconsin. But in the meantime, she’s focusing on getting healthy again.

“I can walk now,” she said. “And I can almost go up and down stairs normally. And I'll be jogging next week, I think.”

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