No talking, just pitching

Josh Lucas Daily Barometer
Meehra Nelson

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

OSU softball pitcher Meehra Nelson would rather be in the pitcher’s circle than anywhere else in the world

There are a lot of things Meehra Nelson would rather do than an interview.

Dentist appointment. Midterm exam. Maybe even go to the DMV. Doesn’t matter, she hates interviews and public speaking.

“I just can’t answer questions,” the Oregon State softball team’s freshman pitcher said. “I’m not a talker.”

On the field, Nelson would rather let her pitching do the talking. And she’s done exactly that: Nelson was recently named one of 25 finalists for Freshman of the Year honors by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Since she was the only Pac-12 player on that list, she’s a likely candidate for the conference’s Freshman of the Year honors as well.

Nelson leads the Beavers with a 3.12 earned run average and a .197 batting average allowed. She has a 15-8 record this year and she’s currently tied for the most saves in OSU single-season history with six, most recently notching one this weekend in a win over No. 18 Arizona.

Nelson has shined in the biggest games: in her first career start, she blanked then-No. 18 Kentucky in an 8-0 complete game shutout win. Then, she went seven innings against No. 12 Oklahoma, striking out six and giving up just two earned runs in the victory.

Put her in a pitcher’s circle and she’ll do just fine in front of a crowd. Put her in front of a podium, though, and she’d rather be anywhere else.

Nelson has never had a job interview and she hasn’t taken a public speaking class yet; she dejectedly admits she’ll have to take one next year.

“I’ll probably fail that class,” she said.

But things change when the the 5-foot-8 pitcher with the powerful windup and a zippy fastball steps on the diamond. Once she’s in the game without having to worry about interviews, homework or any other concerns, everything but softball fades into the background.

“I don’t have to think when I pitch,” Nelson said. “I just do it. I don’t have to think about anything, actually. It’s comfortable because I’m just pitching.”

“She definitely loves being in the circle with the ball in her hands when the game is on the line,” added head coach Laura Berg. “She wants to throw, and she gets mad when she doesn’t.”

It didn’t take long for Nelson to get accustomed to Division-I softball. She currently ranks second in the Pac-12 with 192 strikeouts and she’s also in the top 10 in innings pitched (152 2/3), appearances (38), starts (22) and complete games (14).

It’s no surprise: the Simi Valley, Calif. native had an extensive resume already from her days at Westlake High School. This February, Nelson was included in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section, noting her accomplishments in prep softball — specifically the last 40 innings she pitched in her career at Westlake, in which she didn’t allow a single run and struck out 75 batters.

Nelson had plenty of other achievements in high school to choose from: she once struck out 23 batters in one game in a 12-inning, 1-0 playoff victory as a senior. So, teammates weren’t surprised at Nelson’s success this season in Corvallis.

“We expected it,” said freshman Kayleen Shafer, Nelson’s catcher and roommate. “We knew how good she was.”

Shafer in particular has seen Nelson’s growth as a pitcher, especially since Shafer has been Nelson’s battery mate for the majority of this season and from living together in Tebeau Hall on campus.

“I remember our first game together going against Kentucky,” Shafer said. “Our very first day of college softball and we were both shaking and so nervous. We ended up winning that game and that gave us so much confidence. We knew we had a lot of potential if that was our first day together. We knew we could build together.”

Though Nelson isn’t the most sociable or gregarious person when initially meeting people, her teammates have expressed how well she’s fit in with the team over the season. In fact, Nelson even considers herself “loud” as long as she’s with people she knows.

“In our bullpens, we have a lot of fun,” said senior pitcher Bev Miller. “Sometimes we have to reign it back in, because we have a little too much fun.”

“I think our personalities click because we’re all pretty sarcastic,” Nelson added of her relationship with some of her teammates.

The dorm life is not Nelson’s favorite, but the friendships of other softball players and rooming with Shafer has made things easier.

“I actually hate living in Tebeau, but living with Kayleen is cool,” Nelson said.

Nelson still has a lot to look forward to. She has three years of eligibility left and she’s on a young OSU squad that expects to make the NCAA Tournament this year for the first time since 2013.

Though Miller won’t be on the team after this season, incoming recruit Nerissa Eason has the potential to form a dangerous pitching duo with Nelson next year. Eason was ranked a Top-5 pitcher in the nation this year by FloSoftball and both Nelson and Eason’s fastballs have been clocked at 70 miles per hour.

“I just think it’s exciting,” Miller said of Nelson’s future. “She’s killing it this year. She’s already really good, but I know she has even more room to fine tune things and make things even better, so I’m really excited to watch her career go. I’ll be here next year [watching], so I’m excited to go to games and see how she’s doing because I know she’s going to do great things.”

“It’s already going by pretty fast, so I’m just trying to enjoy whatever I have left,” Nelson added.

On Twitter @BrightTies

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