Lefty makes her Point at shortstop
Almost halfway through Point Loma Nazarene's softball season, head coach Dave Williams figured his team needed an upgrade at shortstop.
A regular visitor to Decatur for the NAIA championships, Point Loma struggled on defense, and Williams thought that an improvement at what he calls the most important infield position would help.
So he held an open tryout and allowed all of his infielders to have a shot. Senior Amy Nanson proved herself the best of the bunch.
But there was a problem with that — Nanson is left-handed. Traditionally, teams rarely put left-handers at second base, shortstop and third because it's hard for them to field a ball, turn around and throw out a runner at first. A few collegiate softball teams will use a left-handed catcher — and in fact there are two in the tournament this year.
But a left-hander at shortstop ... well, that's something softball fans see about as often as they see a team that doesn't do those constant chants from the dugout.
"Shortstop is one of the most important positions in terms of team confidence, and I felt we should have the best athlete on the team there," Williams said Saturday after Point Loma clinched a spot in the tournament's eight-team double-elimination portion, which begins Monday.
Williams had so much confidence in Nanson's athletic ability that his biggest worry wasn't her being left-handed. Instead, he worried about who would replace her at first. Nanson was an All-American there last season, but freshman Carrie Stewart seems to have filled in well.
Williams said he gets asked about his left-handed shortstop every time Point Loma plays somebody new. Nanson gets the same questions.
"People notice a left-handed shortstop," Nanson said.
They notice another oddity, too — she bats right-handed.
"That's just what I've always done it since I was little," she said, laughing.
The oddity of a left-handed shortstop draws attention of us reporter-types, too. She's gotten plenty of TV and newspaper attention back home, and considering Point Loma plays in San Diego, that's unusual. Most NAIA teams that play in large cities get almost no media attention.
But she's actually a great shortstop. If you have doubts about whether a left-hander can handle the position, come out to Wilson Morgan Park on Monday and watch Nanson.
She has excellent range and speed, which helped her turn an important double play in a 2-0 win Sunday over Houston Baptist. Point Loma second baseman Lacy Newman fielded a ground ball and tossed to Nanson, who threw to first as she crossed second. Point Loma got the out there, too, which is rare. Most of these NAIA teams are built for speed and athleticism, and with the bases only 60 feet apart, it's not often you'll see a ground ball double play.
It seems like it should be impossible for her to get an out on a ball to her extreme right. However, she's quick enough that she's made several plays on balls like that in this tournament.
She fields as well as or better than every right-handed shortstop in this tournament.
"She's a great left-handed shortstop," teammate Randi Mead said.
When told that she didn't need to add "left-handed" to that sentence, Mead immediately corrected herself and emphasized, "She's a great shortstop."
It helps that Nanson has had a quality teacher in Point Loma assistant coach Cheryl Bolding, the NAIA player of the year in 2001 and '02. She played shortstop, too, although she was right-handed, of course.
"When I went out to shortstop for the first game, our coach, Dave, told me to go out, have fun, be fearless and attack the ball," she said. "My teammates and my coaches have confidence in me, and that's helped. I think I'm doing better with the concept now."