2014 MC Record Softball Player of the Year: Royalton senior Jacquline Nichols

Nichols-1.2Jacquline Nichols isn’t quite sure where her power comes from.

Her wrists?

Her hips?

A lightning-quick swing?

“Sometimes I feel like I get lucky when I hit,” she said.

If that’s the case, her supply of fortune is seemingly limitless.

The Royalton senior shortstop absolutely punished opposing pitchers throughout her career, turning the Royals’ record book upside down and becoming a two-time Class A first team all-state selection.

In all, Nichols broke 12 school records in her career. She finished this spring with a .623 batting average, including 11 doubles, a triple, three home runs and 29 RBIs.

“This season batting I found my timing pretty well on the pitchers I faced,” Nichols said. “Just knowing my zone and when the ball was where I wanted it to be, I was going to attack and hit the ball where I wanted it to go.

“The average comes from just hitting gaps and putting the ball in play consistently, but really I’m not sure where the power comes from,” she said. “Just a combination of timing and form with my wrists and hips? … When home runs come it’s just hitting the zone at the right time on the right place on the ball.”

The ability to replicate that comes from a strong grasp for the game, and what opponents will try to do when facing her.

“Jacquline is such a good hitter because she has very sound fundamental hitting skills,” Royalton head coach Amy Krueger said. “She also has faced some pitchers from AA and AAA schools in her summer club softball play that has helped her to be confident that she can hit off of any pitcher.

“A bad day at bat for Jacquline is sort of an oxymoron,” she said. “Even when she didn’t get a base hit, each of her at bats had an impact on the overall game outcome, whether it was sacrificing to advance runners or collecting RBIs. She has a great talent for zoning in on where defensive gaps are, identifying patterns in pitches and sharing this knowledge with her teammates.”

With all of the offensive skills Nichols possesses, it’s easy to look past her strength on the other side of the diamond.

But she has been able to successfully reinvent herself defensively based on team needs, and as injury has necessitated, maneuvering from the outfield, to catcher, to third base and finally to shortstop.

“Not only is Jacx outstanding offensively, she also plays solid defense,” Krueger said. “She has adjusted well to every position I have asked her to play.

“When you combine her offensive and defensive play, she is a player to be reckoned with,” she said. “Many conference coaches have expressed relief that she is graduating so they no longer have to look the other way when she is up to bat or cringe when a ball is hit in her direction defensively.”

Not only did Nichols put up gaudy numbers, she did so in key situations.

In the Royals’ 10-9 playoff-opening win, she went 4-for-4 with two homers and seven RBIs.

Her efforts landed her on the Class A all-state first team for a second year in a row, an even more impressive accomplishment considering that the honorees are often chosen from better-known schools.

“Being selected to the all-state team for these past two years has been such an honor,” Nichols said. “It’s very humbling to be placed with some of the best players in the state. Coming from a small school sometimes things like that don’t happen as often as the bigger schools or schools who have been to the state tournament.

“I am so blessed to have had this opportunity, it has been so much fun having success in something that I truly have a passion for, but I really would have not been in the place that I am without all of the support of my coaches and family,” she said. “They have truly helped me so much. They are amazing.”

“I knew that Jacx was a great player in our conference and even in our section, but it is very impressive to see one of your players put out stats that compare with the best players in the state and be chosen for such a prestigious honor,” Krueger said.

Nichols’ high school career may be over, but her playing days are not.

She will keep wearing maroon and gold, but now at Augsburg College.

“This year was a great way to finish off my career,” Nichols said. “I came in a little nervous from knee surgery and being out of commission for the summer, but once the season started everything fell into place. In the field and at bat, I just felt confident and knew I wanted to hit the ball and put it in play or to make the plays that needed to be done. This year was just about having fun and playing the game I love and that really worked out. It was so much fun.”

 

MC Record Players of the Year:

2014: Jacquline Nichols, Royalton

2013: Jamie Jenks, Little Falls

2012: Jamie Jenks, Little Falls

2011: Katelyn Fuhrman, Pierz

 

MC Record’s Player of the Year, game-by-game

April

LPGE: 2-3, HR, 3-RBI, 2-R

Upsala: 3-4, 2-2B, 3-RBI, 2-R

Swanville: 1-2, R

Browerville: 2-5, 2-2B, 2-RBI, 2-R

EV-Watkins: 2-3, 2B, 2-RBI, R

 

May

West Central (GM 1): 0-3, R

West Central (GM 2): 2-3, 2B, 2-RBI, R

Upsala: 2-3, R

Holdingford: 3-4, 2-2B, RBI, 2-R

LPGE: 2-4, 2B, RBI, R

Pillager: 1-4, R

Osakis (GM 1): 4-5, 2B, RBI, 2-R

Osakis (GM 2): 2-3, 2B, R

Eagle Valley: 3-4, 3B, 6-RBI, 2-R

 

Section 5A playoffs

Upsala: 4-4, 2-HR, 7-RBI, 3-R

EV-Watkins: 2-4, R

Kimball Area: 3-3, RBI, 2-R

 

Record breaker

Jacquline Nichols broke 12 school records during her career, including:

Career home runs: 10

Career doubles: 35

Career hits: 114

Career runs: 87

Career RBIs: 80

Career batting average: .523

Season doubles: 11

Season batting average: .623

Season hits: 38

Season RBIs: 29

Single-game hits: 5

Single-game RBIs: 7

 

2014 stats

Hits: 38

Batting average: .623

On-base percentage: .652

Slugging percentage: .985

Doubles: 11

Triples: 1

Home runs: 3

Stolen bases: 11

Fielding percentage: .849

Defensive putouts: 73

Defensive double plays: 2

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