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After signing to play softball for the Minnesota Gophers on Wednesday at Brainer
After signing to play softball for the Minnesota Gophers on Wednesday at Brainer

Anderson to play softball for Gophers

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sports Brainerd, 56401

Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

With the eye-catching statistics that Nikki Anderson has compiled in three varsity seasons, it’s no shock she will pitch for the University of Minnesota in 2012-13.

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On Wednesday, the Brainerd Warriors left-handed standout signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent to pitch for the Gophers during a signing ceremony in the Brainerd High School cafeteria.

She will become the third generation of her family to play for Minnesota. Her aunt, Lezlie (Anderson) Vermilion played softball for the Gophers from 1980-83. Her grandfather, Bob Anderson, played baseball at Minnesota and was an outfielder on the 1956 College World Series championship team.

“I’m excited to keep (the family tradition) going,” Anderson said.

Anderson has led the Warriors to two Class 3A state tournaments. She holds school records for most wins (51), strikeouts (a whopping 547) and ERA (a scintillating 0.724).

In 374.2 innings, she has allowed 165 hits, walked just 39 and twirled 24 shutouts.

What makes her so difficult to hit is the fact she throws six pitches — fastball, drop, offspeed drop, curveball, riseball, and changeup.

“I wish I could take credit for it but I can’t,” Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said of Anderson’s signing. “She has, from Day One, basically done it on her own. She’s gone down to the Twin Cities, working with a pitching coach down there, played countless hours of summer ball on superior teams out of the Twin Cities, and traveled throughout the U.S.

“About the only credit I can take is I told her if she really wants to go somewhere and really be good she would have to buy into strength training, and she did that.

“She’s always one of the first to practice, one of the last to leave, she only wants to get better. She’s hard-nosed. She has a tough mindset when she’s pitching.”

Anderson is not sure what the Gophers plans’ are for her as an incoming freshman.

“You have limited communication until after you sign,” she said. “I do know I will have to come in and work my butt off to be able to play and to have a starting position. It will be a lot of hard work, but I’m really excited.”

Following the 2010 high school season Anderson pitched for the Minnesota Renegades, a Twin Cities team that played in the national tournament in Tennessee. That’s when the Gophers became interested in offering her a scholarship.

“When we played in Tennessee the first week of August, (Gophers) pitching coach (Piper Marten) watched me pitch,” she said. “And, when (the Renegades) played fall ball in September they started watching me pitch. I had an official visit (to Minnesota), stayed the night with one of the girls, they offered (a scholarship) before I left.”

Anderson thanked her mother and father, Nancy and Art Anderson, for enabling her to attain her dream of pitching at the Division I level.

“Definitely, my mom and dad, driving me to every single tournament and driving every single weekend to a pitching coach because for a long time I couldn’t drive,” she said. “We were non-stop working on spins or my pitches or the right mechanics. It was definitely them.”

Anderson will join Megan Arns and Abby Rehberger as former Warriors who have played for the Gophers in recent years.

“We’re very proud of that as a program,” Zauhar said. “Actually, we’re proud of a lot of kids who have gone on to play Division II and Division III softball.

“For selfish reasons, I’m glad Nikki’s going to the U because we’ll be able to get down there and watch her play. It’s been a fun trip to watch those kids play.”

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or at 855-5861.

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