Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

Speedy Nichols just keeps on flying with Avila’s Eagles

August 10, 2006

Terra Nichols is fast. Her high school softball opponents found that out firsthand back when she used to patrol center field and fly around the bases for Basehor-Linwood High School. Her college opponents, if they don't already know, will probably find out soon.

Nichols, who has played mostly left field for Avila University in the last two years, will likely make the move to center for her junior season. Kara Lackner, another BLHS alum, was the Eagles' center fielder until she graduated last year and Avila coach Steve Keel said Nichols would play a lot of center this year, giving her a better chance to show off her impressive range.

For Nichols, the adjustment from BLHS, which she attended from 2000-2004, to college has centered around not only academics, but her athletic life as well. Nichols said she chose Avila for its nursing program, with softball a secondary consideration. But her commitment to the sport is bigger now than it was in high school.

"You play a lot more games, double if not triple what you played in high school," she said, "and it's all year round."

Still, Nichols has thrived on the softball field. She batted .265 as a sophomore, hitting mostly out of the seventh spot in the order, which Keel said was less a knock on her hitting than a nod to her wheels.

"I like a speed kid in my sixth or seventh spot," Keel said.

Even so, Nichols said one of her goals for her last two seasons is to get on base more often, so she can use that speed more.

"My batting average isn't bad, but I'd like to up it," she said.

Although speed has become her trademark, Nichols' most memorable moment at Field of Dreams was an impressive display of power. On April 13, 2004, Nichols and the Lady Bobcats were in extra innings against Santa Fe Trail. The Chargers scored four runs in the top half of the eighth to take a seemingly devastating 10-6 lead. But the never-say-die Lady 'Cats stormed back. With two outs they scored two runs and managed to load the bases for Nichols. She finished the improbable comeback in the most dramatic fashion possible, blasting a walk-off grand slam over the left field fence and setting off a wild celebration at home plate.

Keel relies on Nichols for speed more than slugging, but noted that she did hit one homer for Avila last year.

"She's not a real big kid, but she's got pretty good power," he said.

Nichols appears to be a key part of the Eagles' future. After an impressive 34-19 record in her freshman year, Avila dropped slightly to 23-18 last year. Keel hopes to build on that this year, with all but three players returning, including Nichols and her top-notch base running.

"She puts a lot of pressure on the defense and I hope to use that to our advantage in the next two years," Keel said.

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