Former USF softball pitcher Sara Nevins is moving from what USF and USA Softball Women’s National Team coach Ken Eriksen calls the minor leagues onto a bigger stage, and Nevins said she couldn’t ask for it any other way.
“It’s pretty exciting to keep representing your country and to play with a bunch of good teammates,” Nevins said. “Just knowing that even though I’m done with college ball, I can continue to compete at the pro level.”
For the second straight year, she is one of 17 players from around the nation selected to play for the team, which will compete this summer at the International Softball Federation Women’s World Championship in Haarlem, Netherlands.
Last year on Team USA, Nevins pitched 33 2/3 innings and struck out 38 batters.
As preparation for the World Championships, Nevins will play in tournaments and exhibition games throughout North America.
The team will later travel to Italy, which Nevins said she is excited to visit.
“Not only do you get to play the sport you love, you’re with a bunch of great people and you get to just go around and explore the place in general,” Nevins said.
As the lone left-handed pitcher on the team, she will accompany current and former All-Americans.
As the team travels around the world playing in tune-up games and smaller tournaments, Eriksen and Nevins share the same goal: beating Japan.
“You put a team together to beat Japan,” Eriksen said. “If you put a team together that can beat Japan, you can beat a lot of other teams too.”
As a 22-year-old, Nevins doesn’t have extensive experience against Japan, but she said she is well aware of the skill and preparation that takes place on the other side of the world.
“Their game is just so quick paced,” Nevins said. “They practice nine hours a day over there so that’s why they are so good at everything. They only have one day off a week. They are always on the go and quick with everything.”
Eriksen believes his left-handed pitcher will be one of several key factors against international teams such as Japan.
“(Nevins’ style) is a little bit different from what a lot of people are used to because she moves the ball from left to right, right to left, and up and down in the zone,” Eriksen said. “There are not a lot of lefties outside of (Catherine) Osterman that will do those types of things, and the difference between her and Osterman is that (Nevins) can throw the ball 10 miles per hour faster.”
The USA Softball Women’s National Team coach also noted Nevins’ hard late breaking ball, which she used to become the Bulls’ career strikeouts leader (1,103) while cracking “about five or six” aluminum bats in the process.
In addition to building a team to beat Japan, Eriksen is also looking to build a team for longevity. Team USA currently has an average age of 22, and he hopes Nevins can stay with the team into what he said are the prime years of a softball career, between the ages 26 and 31, to hopefully compete in the 2020 Olympics.
However, before she or anyone plays in the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has to vote softball back in.
Eriksen said the sport has a 60 percent approval rating, enough to be voted back in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
“I hope to keep playing and I’m pretty sure (softball) will be back up in 2020,” Nevins said.
She is still considering all of her options, including enrolling in nursing school and playing professionally on an international level.
Nevins and the USA Softball Women’s National Team begin exhibition games July 2 in West Virginia.