Brianna Butler always wanted to play softball at Duke. She called it her “dream school.” But there was a problem at the time she started looking at colleges – Duke didn’t have a softball program.
So the talented Greenbrier pitcher committed to North Carolina. Then, the rival Atlantic Coast Conference school added softball. Butler switched her commitment to play for the Blue Devils.
On Wednesday, Butler made it official, finally signing with Duke. The Blue Devils started the sport this fall and will play its first official contests in the spring.
“It’s completely shell-shocking,” she said. “It’s super exciting. I get to create a legacy and imprint my name. Hopefully, I’ll set a record.”
Butler, who graduates from high school next month, plans to enroll in January at Duke. Butler has made all ‘A’s in high school except for a ‘B’ she recorded in an honors college biology class.
“I was so frustrated with that,” she said, before mentioning Duke’s academic reputation. “The one thing I’m worried about is the classes. Duke has a very smart population, full of valedictorians and salutatorians. I’m more worried about the academic aspect than the athletic aspect.”
Butler’s softball journey got off to a slow start when she began playing when she was 10.
She played first base and outfield until one year moving to the circle. Her inspiration was her oldest sister, Nivea, who also was a pitcher. Her other sister, Robyn, was a member of the Lady Wolfpack’s 2004 state championship team.
When Butler first started pitching, her first pitch sailed over the backstop. But after joining a travel team called the Georgia Girls, her coach told her she was going into the game and staying there.
“She just said, ‘I don’t care what you do. I’m not going to take you out. I have faith in you.’” Butler said. “Just hearing that after being put down by my last team just inspired me. I gained 10 mph out of nowhere in two weeks. And I could throw strikes.”
Butler later joined the Atlanta Vipers, where she continued to improve. Butler made an impact at Greenbrier, helping the Lady Wolfpack win their second state title in 2014. She established herself as one of the state’s top pitchers. In 2016, Butler was Region 3-AAAAAA’s Pitcher of the Year, also hitting .391 with 4 homers and 22 RBI.
Soon, she’ll head to Duke, where she said she’s thinking about majoring in psychology and minoring in computer science. She said she wants to work with artificial intelligence to help people with mental health issues.
“There’s a shortage of therapists and psychiatrists in the country,” Butler said. “People can receive help, but there’s either a shortage or they too scared to go. They can just go to a machine and confide in that. Plus, it’s more accurate in the diagnosis.”