Nicholson NPF Blog #2: And we're off!

June 9, 2008

AKRON, Ohio - Hey all you Redbird or Racer fans! Here is take-two on my rookie life in the National Pro Fastpitch league (NPF) as an Akron Racer.

We finally played our first games last weekend against the Chicago Bandits. I was really excited to get back in the action after not playing for an entire year. Ironically, the last game I played was in Chicago when we lost to Northwestern in the championship game of the NCAA Regional last May. I was thrilled being back in Illinois, and it felt more like a home game to me.

The first game was Friday night (June 6), and we started our veteran pitcher Radara McHugh, along with eight rookies (in the field). I didn't start the game, but I made my professional debut in an unexpected way. In the fourth inning, we made a pitching change, and put our first baseman in to pitch. This moved me to first base. I have played quite a bit of first base before, but I never really thought my first action as a professional would be on the corner and not in the circle. I think I had a million things running through my head as I was trying to play out any possible situation that could happen. It went well, though, and I even got a few balls down there at first. However, we ended up losing our opening game, 4-0, to the Bandits.

Game two was Saturday (June 7). Kate Robinson, a rookie from Hawai'i, was slated to start the game with me in relief down in the bullpen. The game started in the rain, and we didn't get an out in before it started to pour. We halted the game for a couple of minutes while the rain let up, and then headed back out on the field. Robinson was having some difficulties throwing in the weather and we were down 2-0 after the first inning. The next inning didn't go much better, as the field was soaked. With runners on first and second and two outs, I was brought in to make my pitching debut. Jamie Clark, a former Olympic gold medalist, was up at the plate. The first pitch I threw was a changeup, it's my best pitch, so I felt pretty confident with it. She took it for a strike. I quickly got another strike in as I threw one inside at her knees. Up in the count 0-2, I threw another changeup low and off the plate. Clark swung and missed and I recorded my first strikeout as we got out of the inning. In college, it took me five games to record my first K, so I was really excited to be able to do it in my first batter. I should of retired right there.



The joy was very short-lived. I also recorded my first at-bat right after this when I led off the inning with a pop-up to the second basemen. We did get a run back when our designated hitter launched a home run into left field to get us back in the game. Down 2-1, we headed into the next inning with me on the mound. The first batter popped my changeup over the left field fence for home run. I think one of the worst feelings in softball is giving up a home run. The next couple batters didn't go much better, but I finally settled in to get another strikeout and then a ground ball to get out of the inning. I finally felt like I was getting comfortable out on the mound, but I was up to bat again. We had runners on first and second, and our coaches decided to put in a pinch hitter for me. The decision worked, as Shannon Doepking launched a double in the gap to score a run. However, this knocked me out of the game. We ended up losing this one, 6-2, and the season wasn't starting the way we had hoped.

Finally, day three (Sunday, June 8) brought us some luck. We got our first victory, winning 3-0. Monday (June 9), we conclude the series with a night game. I am slated to make my first start. Let's hope for another win!

The games usually start at 7 p.m., which is a lot different than college. It is strange to sit around all day and then finally play at night. I've been trying to figure out a good schedule to get on, but I'm not sure I've perfected it yet. Usually, I spend a lot of time walking around or going shopping to keep from sleeping all day. I do like the night games, though, and it seems like the fan turn out is pretty good for the games.

Hopefully, next time, I'll report with some good news on Monday's game! Go `Birds and Racers!

- Shannon Nicholson #19