OSU softball pitcher-catcher combination draw upon background similarities

Beverly Miller and Sammi Noland

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

Beverly Miller and Sammi Noland have a lot in common.

They are both seniors on the Oregon State softball team and both transferred to OSU before their junior year. They also have the pitcher-catcher connection, with Miller in the circle and Noland behind the plate.

Both are team captains, battery mates and roommates, and they would not have it any other way.

“It’s awesome because spending so much time off the field with her, I get to know her tendencies, kind of how her brain works and how she thinks,” Noland said. “It really helps translate it onto the field. I can help calm her down when she needs it, she can pick me up when I need it.”

As roommates, they have developed the reputation of being two of the smartest players on the team—they live in “the 4.0 house,” says head coach Laura Berg. But there were no signs earlier in Miller or Noland’s life they would become close friends; Miller went to Sunset High in Portland and Noland at Canyon Del Oro High just north of Tucson, Ariz. Miller traveled to Monterey Peninsula College in California to start her collegiate softball career, while Noland headed to Nebraska. Their simultaneous arrival in Corvallis has been serendipitous and beneficial for both.

“It was good that we both had this outside perspective before joining the Beaver squad,” Miller said. “We both had our own experiences that we could build off of and understand this is a different program, so we’re adjusting to something new. It’s a really good building point.”

It did not take long for the pair to connect once they came to OSU, both on the field and off. They roomed together all of last season and both became two of OSU’s cornerstones throughout the year. Miller led the Pac-12 with 194 innings pitched and received Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors, while Noland started 29 games and played mostly in right field because her primary position of catcher was held by now-graduated Hannah Akamine.

This year, they share one more thing in common: both could cede significant playing time to freshmen—pitcher Meehra Nelson and catcher Kayleen Shafer.

Regardless, Miller and Noland will contribute to the program in more ways than just on the field. As team captains, Miller and Noland will have two of the biggest leadership roles this season.

“In order for us to come together as a team, we’re really going to need that strong leadership,” said Natalie Hampton, who also lives with Miller and Noland and is a team captain. “The team is behind us.”

Last year was not always easy for Miller and Noland, but both have grown from adversity as they now begin their senior seasons. Miller battled some nagging injuries, especially a foot issue that she played through. As it turned out, Miller had broken a bone in her plant foot, but did not realize the seriousness of the injury until after the year. Miller, though, is glad she did not know she would need to have surgery until later. She would rather play through the pain than sit out.

“Someone like Beverly, who is so competitive, wants the ball in the circle whether she’s in pain or not,” Berg said. “It’s definitely hard to get her off the field if she’s hurting.”

“I’m lucky I was there to help her,” Noland added. “But when she’s on the field, nothing gets to her.”

On a scale of one to ten, the pain was simply “up there,” Miller says. Once she had the surgery, sitting out was difficult mentally, especially in the eight weeks afterwards when she was able to do very little on the foot.

“Even three weeks after surgery, when I still wasn’t allowed to walk without crutches, I was like, ‘I just want to pitch right now,’” Miller said. “The trainer was like, ‘No, you can’t yet.’ I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”

She no longer feels pain in the foot, which allowed her to spend countless hours in offseason pitching sessions. Usually she tosses at least 100-200 pitches in a workout, working on technique and building a rapport with her catchers, including Noland.

Miller appreciated Noland’s performance and strong arm in the outfield last year, but Miller is looking forward to seeing Noland back in her “primary position” behind the plate.

Noland felt a bit out of place last year, having to learn the intricacies playing right field. But now, she is able to see her off-field relationship with Miller transition into on-field success.

“With them being together most of the time, you expect them to be pretty close and kind of know what each other are thinking,” Berg said. “When Sammi knows that Beverly is not hitting her spots or struggling a little bit, she can call time out whenever she wants and get her back on track, and vice versa.”

Their leadership will be key for an OSU squad that missed out on the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. For Miller and Noland, this season will be their last shot at making the postseason before they graduate, and their teammates know what role the seniors will play in 2016.

“For once in a long time, since my freshman year, all 19 of us are on the same page and working toward that goal rather than talking about it,” Hampton said. “This year, the captains, especially me and I know the other girls, are working really hard to gain everyone’s trust on and off the field. I think we have that unspoken bond.”

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