It hasn’t been an easy start to the Terrapins softball season for pitcher Brenna Nation. In her first year since losing her father to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in October, she has gone 2-13 with a 7.82 ERA.
The redshirt junior has been publishing a personal blog to share her story, help manage her pain and inspire others. And in practice Thursday, she told coach Julie Wright that a player from Norfolk State was planning to quit the sport until she read Nation’s latest post.
Wright has used that to help put the sport in perspective entering this weekend’s matchup with Nebraska (20-11, 1-2 Big Ten), which boasts a lineup that ranks second in the Big Ten in slugging percentage, home runs and RBIs.
“When it’s something powerful like that and so much bigger than yourself, I just said to her, ‘It makes the curveball seem easy, doesn’t it?'” Wright said.
The Terps’ pitching staff is coming off its roughest weekend of the season, when it allowed 29 runs in three road losses to Ohio State. It’s the most runs the Terps (7-23, 0-3) have surrendered in a three-game stretch all season.
For Nation, she said she’s able to cope in practice, but sometimes her emotions overwhelm her when she steps into the pitching circle for games.
“I’m fine with mechanics in the bullpen,” Nation said. “When I get on the field, I lose it.”
Nation has been able get ahead of batters this season, but her trouble putting them away has contributed to a 7.82 ERA.
Instead of making hitters chase with two strikes against the Buckeyes, she threw too many hittable pitches, allowing four extra-base hits in four innings.
“I just have to stop missing over the plate,” Nation said. “Rise ball I have to get higher up if I’m ahead, drop ball I have to get lower.”
While her emotions make it difficult at times to execute her game plan, she said, she is working hard in practice to make adjustments. Nation’s personal blog allows her to express her emotions, and it also helps that catcher Kristina Dillard has become a close friend.
Dillard, a Hanover native, transferred from Louisville before the season. Getting to know the team’s pitchers was a “growing process” for her, but she said she’s learned to find the “right way to interact with them.”
The junior has provided on-field production, hitting .313 and throwing out eight runners, but her relationship with Nation is perhaps even more important.
Nation called Dillard “my kind of catcher” because she is “very positive but definitely knows the game well.”
When Nation runs into trouble with her emotions in the pitching circle, Dillard comes out to support her. Sometimes Dillard tells Nation jokes during high-stress situations to make her laugh and settle down.
Their connection might be key to bouncing back this weekend.
“I can depend on her,” Nation said.