Rogers softball coach Jaclyn Ramsey doesn’t want to disrespect any of the pitchers in a solid 4A South Puget Sound League.
But the best pitcher she’s faced all season plays in the 3A Pierce County League.
That seems to be the growing consensus for opposing teams against Brooke Nelson, a Bonney Lake sophomore who is committed to play at the University of Washington in three years.
“And she is the best pitcher we will see this season,” Ramsey said. “Hands down.”
Top-ranked, Class 4A Rogers had two balls get out of the infield against Nelson in a battle of two of the South Sound top softball teams on Friday as No. 3, Class 3A Bonney Lake escaped with a 5-3 victory despite committing four errors.
Nelson struck out 12 and the three Rogers runs were unearned — including two that came on what should have been a game-ending strikeout. The umpire ruled the ball hit the ground before entering the catcher’s glove and the Panthers couldn’t get the batter out at first base as two runners came around to score on an error at the plate.
Nelson then ended the game when she got fellow UW commit Raigan Barrett, Rogers’ freshman shortstop, to ground out to third base.
“I thought Brooke was a million bucks today,” Bonney Lake coach Andrew Sage said. “We needed to see that kind of pressure. Rogers is a good ball club and we needed to see that.”
Rogers entered the game with a prolific lineup averaging 12.6 runs per game.
But Bonney Lake jumped ahead early, scoring five runs in the second inning — all unearned — and won the game despite only two hits.
Bonney Lake improved to 10-0, while Rogers fell to 7-1.
These aren’t the same Panthers who burst on to the scene with a heavy dose of talented freshmen last year before falling a win short of reaching the state tournament.
They are still young — starting a freshman, four sophomores, two juniors and two seniors — but return more experienced.
“We’ve grown so much since last year,” Nelson said. “Especially when we started our winter conditioning. After Christmas break we came together and worked really hard.”
“I had them like sinners on Judgement Day,” Sage said. “They begged for mercy. But they also earned each other’s trust.”
And Bonney Lake’s been rolling in its first year in the 3A PCL, averaging 13.5 runs per game in league play. Nelson threw a no-hitter (the only batter to reach base was on an error) Thursday in a 17-0 win against Spanaway Lake and she was also 3-for-3 at the plate with a home run.
Nelson was the player of the year in the 3A SPSL last season with her pitching arsenal of fastball, riseball, dropball, curveball and changeup. Sage said he’s never selected a sophomore as a team captain before Nelson in his eight years coaching the Panthers.
“I’m definitely more confident this year,” Nelson said. “Coming in as a freshman, it was definitely intimidating.”
Even though her teammates were just as intimidated.
“With her speed and her velocity, even me hitting against Brooke, I get a little bit intimidated by her,” said Eleseana Quintanar, Bonney Lake’s senior right fielder and leadoff hitter. “But really when you get to know her she’s the sweetest girl ever.”
So let’s get to know her.
▪ Nelson’s favorite movie?
“I love the movie ‘Grown Ups.’ I love comedies,” she said.
▪ Favorite food?
“Anything with avocados,” Nelson said. “Or orange chicken.”
▪ Favorite Snapchat filter?
“I love the one where it makes your mouth go down,” she saidte.
▪ Something most don’t know about her?
“I can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Polish,” she said.
But what she wants people to know most about her are her goals — and it’s not to strike out 169 batters in 107 innings with a 0.72 ERA or hit .696 at the plate with five home runs like she did last season.
“I want to make it further than last year,” Nelson said. “We fell a little short, but we want to go further.
“I think we work so hard that if we stay together and stay locked in, we can go anywhere.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677