After four years of softball at Jackson High School, Ashley Nearpass wasn’t ready to give up the game. After two more years of gameplay for Kellogg Community College, she still isn’t.
“Being around all the girls and just having that pressure on you to get that hit or make that catch, when everybody’s eyes are on you, I like that,” Nearpass said recently at the Bruins’ home field in Battle Creek’s Bailey Park.
It was just shy of a week from the team’s final double header against Jackson Community College at the field, which resulted in a pair of losses that effectively ended the their season as well as Nearpass’ community college softball career.
The team finished eighth in their nine-team Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference, and while Nearpass said she wishes they could have had as much success on the field this year as they did academically off it – “I’m about on the field; I want to win,” she said – she has plenty of good memories to make the year worthwhile.
Nearpass led the team in hits (38), scoring (23 runs) and stolen bases (eight). She hit .286 for the season, including eight doubles, a triple, a home run and 14 RBI.
Late last month, Nearpass, who will graduate from Kellogg Community College this week with an Associate of Arts degree with a 3.887 GPA, was awarded the Outstanding Female Scholar Athlete award at the college’s annual Awards Banquet. It’s an award given to just one female athlete at the college each year and which KCC Athletic Director Tom Shaw has called “our highest honor.”
Yet perhaps not surprisingly, Nearpass said her proudest moment came on the field, during a game against Ancilla College.
“With two outs, I was on first and (freshman outfielder) MacKenzie (Kendall) hit a gap, and I scored all the way from first to win the game,” Nearpass said.
Russ Bortell, the Bruins’ head softball coach, called Nearpass a great teammate committed to being the best she can be, who’s a high achiever in the classroom and “a coach’s dream.”
“Her approach to the game is exactly what we ask of our players,” Bortell said. “Anytime I address the team with information, she diligently tries to apply what we ask.”
A love for sports runs in Nearpass’ blood. Her father has been a football coach at Jackson High School for more than two decades, and her older brother was a sophomore player on Kellogg Community College’s baseball team when they won the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Region XII District Championship in 2007.
So while she’ll certainly miss “putting that uniform on and taking the field with all the girls” at Kellogg Community College, she’s also looking toward the future. With plans to transfer to Western Michigan University to pursue a degree in accounting, Nearpass also has hopes to walk on to the WMU softball team.
“There are some things I need to work on, that’s for sure,” she said of trying out for the team. “But I can’t give up the game right now.”
For more information about the softball program at Kellogg Community College, visit www.kellogg.edu/athletics/softball/index.html.
For photos from recent games at home at Bailey Park, visit Kellogg Community College’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KelloggCommunityCollege/photos.