Endowed Scholarship Story: Aubrey Nitschelm
Written by John Wykoff
This is the fourth in a series of stories on Portland State student-athletes who've earned Endowed Scholarships. For all the stories, click on the FEATURES link just above the Viking Vision video box at GoViks.com.
Last softball season is one that junior outfielder Aubrey Nitschelm won't soon forget.
For one thing, it came on the heels of her second summer of international play (Paris, Antwerp and Amsterdam), an experience which "helped me gain a lot more confidence and love for the game, which transferred over to this past season."
"Aubrey had a fantastic year last year. She was second on the team in batting (.314) and second in RBIs with 25," said first-year Head Coach Barb Sherwood of this year's co-recipient (along with sprinter Jazmin Ratcliff) of the Jack and Deane Garrison Endowed Scholarship.
Sometimes, though, it's life's random experiences that provide the most lasting memories. Nitschelm and the Viking softball squad had one of those in the form of an entire night spent in the San Jose airport.
"We had a flight that was delayed several times, so we missed our connecting flight from San Jose to Las Vegas. We spent the night in the San Jose airport. I have never had to do that before, and it was funny watching girls dancing around in the empty airport and sleeping in the most random, uncomfortable places. We didn't get a lot of sleep and the next day was one of the longest softball days of my life," she said.
It didn't end there.
"During our game the next night, we actually got delayed even longer because the lights at the ball park shut off in the middle of the game. It was something we just had to laugh at because there was nothing we could do about it," Nitschelm recalled.
For the first time, Nitschelm started every game last season and completely fulfilled Sherwood's expectations.
"My expectations for Aubrey were high. She met them with flying colors. She went up 100-points in batting average from the previous year," Sherwood said.
Nitschelm thinks her mental game got stronger last season. "Overall, I believe I improved as a player when it comes to the mental game. My first couple of years, I felt I struggled most with just trying to relax. This year, I tried to have fun and take things one step at a time," she said.
With a lot to choose from, she said the year's highlight was "just playing softball in general. I feel so blessed to play the sport I love while getting an education at the same time (she is majoring in General Science with a minor in Elementary Education).
Next season, Sherwood expects Nitschelm to "continue to get better and better offensively and defensively and to continue to be a team leader."
And that fits with her goals, as well.
Next year, besides earning back her outfield position, her goal is to "strive for a higher on base percentage."
She has an unusual place to practice that.
"I have been hitting on my own time at a small batting cage at operation Santa Clause in Redmond, OR (a reindeer ranch). I grew up working there and the owner has been generous enough to let me borrow the batting cages that were originally created for his daughters," Nitschelm said.
This will be the first summer she hasn't played organized softball. She'll be working at a Bend daycare center, picking up side jobs at the reindeer ranch and hopes for some trips to the family's Lake of the Woods cabin to spend time with cousins.
And, hopefully next year will bring more of one of the things she loves about softball.
"Nothing is more exciting during a game than having a rally, whether you are at bat or on the fence. My favorite part of the game is experiencing offensive success as a team," Nitschelm said.