Nikki Schroeder’s versatility in fastpitch was visible all four years at Olympia High School, where she played catcher, pitcher and multiple infield positions. But her multi-dimensional skills were most evident against 4A Narrows League foe South Kitsap on April 1.
Gabby Braniff, the Bears’ third baseman, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee in the first inning while fielding a grounder. Schroeder, a team captain, huddled with her teammates in the infield while coaches attended to Braniff, and started thinking about the defensive changes the Bears needed to make.
Schroeder suggested to coach Matt Loes that she move to catcher, switching from first base, her primary position for Olympia. An in-game change to behind the plate might be extreme for some, but not for the Bears’ senior.
Schroeder, The Olympian’s All-Area fastpitch player of the year, is known for carrying two bags, three gloves and four bats worth of equipment to her games.
“A lot of people make fun of me,” she said. “I’m always the last one out.”
She’s the ultimate utility player, Loes said, explaining without hesitation that he could put the senior anywhere in the nine positions and she’d succeed.
“She’s a rarity,” Loes said.
While she primarily played first base for the Bears, who made their first Class 4A state tournament appearance in nine seasons this spring, Schroeder will be a catcher in college. She signed with Long Island University, an NCAA Division I program in the Northeast Conference.
That’s the position she feels most at home, she said, and it’s where the Blackbirds want her to play.
“I have a feeling they’re going to have a great impact on my life,” Schroeder said.
In her high school career, she played first base, shortstop, catcher and even pitcher. She played where she was needed.
“I definitely feel comfortable playing anywhere,” Schroeder said.
As for her best position? She isn’t sure, even though her first two years and part of this past season at Olympia were spent behind the plate.
So why didn’t Schroeder play full-time catcher for the Bears?
The team had another high-quality catcher — sophomore Adrianna Rupright. Also, having Schroeder play first base made for a stronger defense behind sophomore pitcher Maddy Stensby.
“It worked well for us,” assistant coach Randy Edwards said.
Edwards said Schroeder not only has a strong arm and good defensive skills, but she has a knack for reading game situations. In 220 fielding chances, she committed one error.
“She’s got really good hands,” Loes said. “She can usually catch anything that’s near her or thrown near her.”
Her defensive skills were just as prominent as Schroeder’s bat. She hit .392 with 31 hits and 26 RBI, all team-highs. She was an opposing pitcher’s nightmare, striking out twice in 90 at-bats.
Not known for the long ball, Schroeder hit a school-record five homers. In four seasons, she had a career .391 batting average with 101 RBI.
She will join an LIU team that defeated then-No. 14-ranked Michigan, which later reached the Women’s College World Series.
“I’m really stoked for college,” Schroeder said. “I’ve dreamed of playing D-I, and I’m going to do it.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick firstname.lastname@example.org