What Brooke Nelson accomplished during her junior season at Bonney Lake High School is well-known by now.
She unleashed a fury in the circle, striking out 306 batters, smashed 21 home runs over the fence with her bat, and was the engine that fueled the Panthers’ historic run to their first-ever Class 3A state title.
Nelson was the clear choice for The News Tribune’s 2018 All-Area softball player of the year.
But, with the numbers she generated during her junior campaign, Nelson is also making a case to become the most dominant two-way player Washington has ever produced.
“And I don’t think she’s reached her ceiling yet,” Bonney Lake coach Andrew Sage said.
Nelson, also the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year this season, has already notched individual and team successes beyond what most high school players accomplish in their careers with her dominance as a pitcher and equally punishing punch as a batter.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an athlete that meant so much to a team or program as she has,” Stadium coach Robert Fenton said. “This kid transcends the sport.”
Fenton says he doesn’t think it will be long before Nelson, a University of Washington commit, will be playing at a national level.
But, in high school ball, she’s already being recognized as one of the nation’s best.
Five games into Bonney Lake’s historic season, Nelson etched her name in the national record books for the first time — and didn’t stop there.
Back in April, when the Panthers played 3A Pierce County league rival Stadium for the first time, Nelson tossed her third of six no-hitters this season.
She walked the first batter in the extra-innings showdown against the Tigers before striking out the next 24.
“I was just excited that we had pulled together and won,” Nelson said. “That was a big one.”
But, the magnitude of Nelson’s performance that day was greater than a rivalry win.
She became just the second player in national history to strike out 24 consecutive batters, according to The National Federation of State High School Associations.
“She was working hard on every single pitch,” said Brooke’s younger sister, Brynn, who plays second base for the Panthers. “It was amazing to see, and I’m really proud of her.”
Molly Hill of Wayne High School (Nebraska) first accomplished the feat in 2004.
Only Dolores Frieze of Los Angeles Garfield has sat down more batters in succession —27 in 1939 — but that was when games lasted nine innings.
“I have never in my life seen that,” Fenton said of Nelson’s historic outing. “She had me befuddled. Not only did she strike them all out, but we were trying to bunt.”
But behind her three signature pitches — curve, rise and drop, and her developing change-up — Nelson didn’t allow a ball in play.
“She makes bats miss,” Sage said. “She does a great job of changing eye level and changing speeds.”
Nelson also hit the walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, solidifying an important win in Bonney Lake’s undefeated league title run.
That game was just a precursor of what was to come.
Nelson carried the Panthers to league, bidistrict and state titles behind a series of mind-blowing performances.
She finished with a 0.79 earned run average in 150 2/3 innings pitched, and didn’t allow a run in league play.
At the plate, she posted a .756 batting average — comfortably in the top 50 nationally for a single season — on 62 hits, drove in 46 runs and scored 45 more.
“She finished the season having more home runs than runs she allowed,” Sage said. “I don’t know if that’s ever happened.
“I’ve never seen someone take command of a game on both sides of the ball — offense and defense — the way this kid does.”
According to NFHS, Nelson is the only player in national history to ever to hit more than 20 home runs in a season and strike out more than 20 consecutive batters in a single game.
“I think she’s just a gamer,” Yelm coach Lindsay Walton said. “Not only is she a threat on the mound, but she’s very dominant offensively as well.
“You have to be really careful when you pitch to her — if you pitch to her.”
Some teams elected not to. In the state title game against Snohomish last month, Nelson was intentionally walked five times.
But, it’s in those moments when her bat is taken away, Sage says, that Nelson shows what makes her such a special player — and it can’t be quantified by a statistic.
“She lifts up everyone around her,” Sage said. “She makes everyone around her better. You can go back and look at the greats, and that’s what they do.”
Nelson won’t say much of her individual accolades, reflecting her successes back to her team, but she’s certainly a spark for the Panthers.
“She’s always vocal and knows how to pick up the team and make sure we stay in the game,” Brynn Nelson said.
“She knows how to help people know what to do in every situation. She’s a huge part of this team.”
Brooke Nelson pitched all 13 innings of Bonney Lake’s championship win in another impressive performance.
But, crashing towards home plate to hug her catcher after striking out the final batter, and having her teammates circle in around her in celebration, means far more to Nelson than her individual accolades.
“That’s everyone’s goal is to win the state championship,” she said. “I think that goal was continually driving us in everything we did — in workouts, in practices, in tough games.
“I’m just kind of soaking it in. It’s a cool experience.”
When winter workouts begin in January, and her final season begins next spring, Nelson will likely continue to claw away at more records, with her 35 career homers approaching national prominence.
But Nelson won’t soon forget her junior season in high school.
And than the statistics, she’ll remember the energy the Panthers’ dugout had during the postseason, the cheers following strikeouts and dancing during a rain delay with her teammates on a tarp-covered infield.
“When you have a player as exceptional as her, and the first thing she is about is team, you couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Sage said.
“That is what you want your younger girls to see — when you’re the best, this is how you act. She’s a great example.”