Gatorade has confirmed what most of us already knew – Sydney Nester is the best softball player in the state of Virginia.
On June 2, the sports drink giant announced its annual winners for player of the year for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nester, who just completed an incredible sophomore season with the Cavaliers, was atop the list as Gatorade’s Player of the Year for Virginia.
A 5-10 right-handed pitcher, Nester was named 4A Player of the Year and a MaxPreps Freshman All-American a year ago after leading Carroll County to a 26-1 record and the state championship. Incredibly, Nester improved upon her freshman numbers with a mind-boggling 0.45 ERA in 2016, allowing just eight earned runs in 124.1 innings on the mound. Going 18-1 with one save, she also struck out 263 hitters while walking just 15, an unthinkable 17.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio. She also surrendered just 49 hits as opposing hitters batted an anemic .115 against her.
The sophomore was equally as impressive at the plate, leading Carroll with a .549 batting average and 29 RBIs. She also drew a team-leading 14 walks. But as exciting as the state honor was for Nester, it was bittersweet as it came the following morning after the Cavaliers’ 2-1 upset loss to Fauquier County in the Region 4A West Semifinals.
“We lost the night before so the mood was low,” Nester said. “I wasn’t very happy, but after that morning I was ecstatic – very excited and very honored. It picked up the mood.”
For Nester, the loss to Fauquier was the first of her career in 38 high school decisions. Now at 37-1, she said that game will remain etched in her mind as she prepares for her junior season and the current season of Lady Lightning travel ball.
“I am using that loss as motivation coming into the summer with travel ball, but also as fire for next season as well. That loss did not feel good,” Nester said. “We were 22-0 coming into the game and we all took it hard, but my mindset right now is using this summer to get better and stronger, dialing in my pitches a little better and to come into my junior season bigger and better.”
Nester said she while the Cavaliers will be young in 2017, she thinks the team will be just as good if not stronger. She said other rising juniors such as Alexis Meredith, Jeannie Kay Utt and Katie McKenzie all have a full season of varsity softball under their belt.
While Nester’s State Player of the Year award last year was just for the 4A classification, the Gatorade Player of the Year award includes all six Virginia classifications. According to the press release from Gatorade, all state winners were selected based on athletic production and impact. Each winner also demonstrated high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Nester has maintained a weighted 4.06 GPA in the classroom and she has volunteered locally by assisting at swim meets in addition to serving as a youth softball coach.
“Sydney Nester is without a doubt a dominant high school player,” said Cave Spring head coach Nick Sharp. “As a pitcher she has a dangerous combination of velocity and control and will pull the string on a good changeup as well. At the plate, she is a strong hitter that can hit for average as well as power.”
Nester also has some fantastic news for Carroll County softball fans. While some in the community have wondered if Nester might possibly transfer to another school to face a higher level of competition or graduate early and head to N.C. State prior to the 2018 season, the Cavalier ace said she has no intentions of going anywhere anytime soon.
“I am going to finish my four years at Carroll County definitely. People have asked me those questions. I’ve heard it a few times and people have told me I am dominating, but I also tell my parents I really, really love being in a small town where everybody knows each other and the whole town is literally at the softball games,” Nester said. “You couldn’t ask for anything better. The whole town is there cheering you on, so I definitely would not change my surroundings at all. About going to N.C. State early, if I could move to Raleigh right now, I definitely would, but I do want to finish all four of my years at Carroll County. I don’t want to wish my time in high school away.”
Besides, Nester is already playing with and facing the top talent in the nation with the Lady Lighting Gold Demarini and the Lady Lightning Gold Premier teams – the organization’s top two national squads. Several of her teammates have also committed to Power 5 Division I schools. Two of them also were just announced as Gatorade Players of the Year in the Carolinas – North Carolina winner Mia Davidson (a Mississippi State commit) and South Carolina winner Cayla Drotar (a South Carolina commit).
“It’s going to be cool with all three of us on the same team. This past weekend I was in Georgia playing. I will be playing in Spartanburg, South Carolina this weekend and Myrtle Beach the next weekend,” Nester said. “And then we will be in Colorado, California, New Jersey and New York, so it will be a very busy summer.”
Carroll County head coach Rick Nester said Sydney’s undeniable talents are a byproduct of hard work. She certainly deserves to be mentioned among the greatest athletes ever to come out of Carroll County.
“You look at the high school and the names on the gym lobby – Alan Turner, Doug Saunders, Robin Andrews, Doug Reavis, Erin Gibson, Mike Montgomery – Syd’s name is certainly among them,” he said. “It is a very talented group and Syd has worked very hard at her skills to become the softball player that she is. She has spent a lot of effort and many, many hours to become the player she is. And not just on the pitching part, but her offensive production, she’s excellent on both sides of the game. She’s been around a good group of teammates and hopefully she continues on for the next two years and hopefully her success will continue on with her at N.C. State.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN