Even though Outstate athletes usually don’t seem to have a chance they still get nominated for statewide player of the year honors.
As well as being exceptional, Brainerd’s Nikki Anderson was an exception to the above statement. Her statistics were just impossible to ignore.
Sunday night, the Warriors’ standout left-handed pitcher was named Ms. Softball at Jax Cafe in Minneapolis. She’s the first Warrior to win the award.
Anderson was one of seven finalists, who included Alex Benedict of Woodbury, Sydney Fabian of Hill-Murray, Taylor LeMay of East Ridge, Morgan Nybo of Hopkins, Carley Pickett of North St. Paul and Cayli Sadler of Maple Grove.
“I was just really grateful I made it into the final seven,” Anderson said Monday. “I had a girl in mind who I thought would get it, then all of a sudden I hear, “Nikki Anderson from Brainerd, Minnesota. It was kind of a shocker.”
The statistics Anderson compiled in four varsity seasons were staggering. She compiled a 0.776 ERA and 71-12 record. In 514.1 innings, she allowed 228 hits, walked just 58 and struck out 791. She threw 33 shutouts with 65 complete games.
Anderson helped Brainerd to two Section 8-3A championships, two state tournament appearances and three Central Lakes Conference championships. She was a three-time all-section player.
This year, Anderson also received her first opportunity to hit at the varsity level and she responded with a .389 average, five doubles and 14 RBIs.
“I would do it all over again,” Anderson said of her high school career. “It was so much fun. They were the best four years of my life.”
The last three weeks have been an avalanche of awards for Anderson.
During that span, she was named the Gatorade Minnesota Softball Player of the Year, an award that recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character, on and off the field. Anderson is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.
An accomplished flutist, Anderson maintained a 3.78 grade-point average.
In addition, she was named to the Minnesota High School Fastpitch Coaches Association all-state first team. The St. Paul Pioneer Press named her a reserve on its all-state team. On June 10, she played in the Minnesota High School All-Star Series in Mankato.
“There’s not another award out there that she hasn’t won,” Warriors head coach Mike Zauhar said. “The next step is going to be a huge step for her. The conditioning aspect of it is going to be a mountain to climb, but I think she’s got the fortitude to do it.”
Anderson signed last fall to play for the University of Minnesota in 2012-13. She will be the third generation of her family to play for Minnesota. Her aunt, Lezlie (Anderson) Vermilion played softball for the Gophers from 1980-83. Her grandfather, Bob Anderson, played baseball at Minnesota and was an outfielder on the Gophers’ 1956 College World Series championship team.
“We’re really excited Nikki’s going to be joining us down here at the ‘U’,” Gophers head coach Jessica Allister said Monday. “Nikki comes from a long line of Gophers. She loves the University of Minnesota. She grew up wearing maroon and gold.
“She’s a left-handed pitcher who throws with good velocity and has good movement on her pitches. She’ll be a nice addition to our staff. She will give us some good innings from the left side.”
Allister expects Anderson to be a contributor as a freshman.
“Red-shirting is not common in college softball,” Allister said. “We’re looking for her to be part of our staff right way.
“Nikki’s had great success, but she knows she can pick it up another level. She’s excited to get here. She’s excited to put the work in, and see what level she can get to.”
Anderson said she recently received the Gophers’ workout program, which she has begun doing.
“I just got my physical,” she said. “I’m going to go and work out with their coach. I’m excited to do that. I just went to the U of M clinic. They worked on my motion, I got some stuff fixed. I’m excited to start next fall.”
Anderson said the top pitchers on the Gophers’ staff include sophomore Kelsey Kimminau and junior Sara Moulton.
“They’re both very good,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of that pitching staff.
“I’m going to work hard to get that starting position.”
Zauhar, who attended Sunday’s banquet, said Anderson’s award is recognition for Brainerd High School and the Warriors’ softball program. He also said the award that Anderson’s teammates helped her land the award.
“I think it’s a very well-deserved award,” Zauhar said. “Nikki’s a pitcher that has tremendous talent, but I also think our team this past year, and past years, has been more than just pitching. That is a tribute to our program. We’ve had a number of outstanding everyday players that have contributed to our success.
“But Nikki is in a class by herself when it comes to pitching.”
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.