The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 11, 2014

MSSU's Hudson adjusts to softball outside the baselines

Whether she played softball for the Webb City Cardinals, the Missouri Tigers or Team USA, Nicole Hudson generally could be found in the middle of the action.

But this softball season is one of adjustment for Hudson. She can be found outside the baselines as the assistant coach at Missouri Southern.

“It’s a little different,” she said, standing outside the first-base dugout at the Lions’ Lea Kungle Field. “I have to stop myself from running out there sometimes.

“It’s a lot of fun. I learn something every day, every inning. I try to get better as a coach every day. It’s been fun, but it’s definitely a learning experience.”

Sometimes her anxiety to get back on the field shows.

“You can see her in the coach’s box just shaking because she wants to be out there,” Lions head coach Bill Gray said. “She wants to be at the plate in a key situation. She wants to be able to make the play.

“But she’s done a spectacular job. The kids listen to her. I listen to her. If I want the kids to hear something, I tell her to tell them because they listen to her better than they listen to me.”

Hudson’s prep and collegiate careers were highly decorated.

At Webb City, she helped the Cardinals win a state championship her junior season. She earned all-state honors all four years, and she held Missouri’s career home run record when she graduated.

At Missouri, she helped the Tigers win a Big 12 Conference championship and make two trips to the College World Series. She finished her career as Mizzou’s all-time leader in walks (143) and second in home runs (46, one shy of the record). She also is in the top-10 on career lists for hits (208), doubles (48), runs scored (151), runs batted in (173) and slugging percentage (.602).

She also was the Tigers’ No. 2 pitcher her senior season, compiling an 11-6 record with two complete-game shutouts.

It hasn’t taken long for Hudson to earn respect from the Lions.

“She’s helped us in so many ways,” outfielder Shelby Romines said. “In our hitting, she’s helped us find our pitch and be confident with that pitch. If the pitcher throws our pitch maybe one time in that at-bat, we’re confident to attack that pitch.

“She’s helped us in the outfield, pitching ... just all around she has helped out tremendously.”

“I get a lot of respect from the players,” Hudson said, “and I appreciate that because it’s hard whenever I’m just a year older than some of them. You always kind of wonder if you’re going to get that, but they are very respectful, and I think we’ve learned a lot from each other.”

“She commanded their respect because they knew what she had done and what she was capable of doing,” Gray said. “She’s proven herself over and over and over to them. She got Shelby Romines through her hitting funk. She’s helped different players the whole time.

“Her knowledge of the game, her willingness to learn, her work with video ... she’s already working for next year with the video we’ve been taking, with the scouting reports and everything else. As much as she’s helped us this year, we’re going to be that much better next year.”

One of Hudson’s game duties is to call pitches.

“I really enjoy that,” she said. “It’s like I’m part of the game without necessarily being the one physically doing it. I pitched in high school and last year at Mizzou. I feel like I have a good idea of what we need to throw, and I’ve learned so much about finding a batter’s weaknesses and adding that to it. It’s been a pretty cool gig.”

After the season, Hudson’s focus turns to making the USA National Team for the second straight year.

“It was such a blast, such a blast,” she said. “I got to travel to Canada and Puerto Rico and play in the World Cup in Oklahoma City. It was something I always wanted to do, always dreamed of but never thought I would get the opportunity to do. But then the cards fell right and there I was. Man, it was awesome.

“This year everybody is trying out again in June. Twenty-four people have been invited to selection camp, and I think there is going to be probably around 15 or 16 on the final roster. It’s nice because I get to come out here, and I’ll take some swings every once in a while off the pitchers and I’ll get on the field and shag some balls in the outfield, just to kind of stay in good shape. But it’s going to be a little harder this time, not coming right off a college season.”

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