When I raced 100-meter state champion Alex Mead in the first episode of Brad vs. BoCoPreps, I guess I was nervous about the outcome. But standing in the box against Niwot's superstar power pitcher Nickie Blue, I couldn't shake the notion that I might imminently receive an unwanted tattoo to commemorate my latest foolhardy challenge.
That, as it was, would be totally up to Nickie. I just hoped she was in a good mood.
The fear of getting embarrassed by Colorado's best prep pitcher in 2012 didn't bother me since I knew that was going to happen. I was, however, a bit scared of getting tagged by a near 70 miles-per-hour fastball. After Niwot head coach Bobby Matthews told me that pitch, from 43 feet away, is roughly equal to a 100-mile-per-hour pitch in baseball, I was terrified.
Watching Nickie warm up felt similar to trying to keep calm at the doctor's office while the nurse prepares a flu shot right in front of you.
A brief look at Nickie Blue's softball resume:
-- Her senior season, she was named Gatorade Colorado Softball Player of the Year.
-- She also led the Cougars to their first state title game appearance since 1998.
-- Last November, she signed to play next season with the powerhouse University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
I have never played fastpitch softball, and the last time I even played baseball was in 1997. I was a stud in the fifth grade. So how could I bring that wealth of Little League experience to my aid against Niwot's walking no-hit bid? (She had two perfect games as a senior.)
"You're going to hear a really loud whoosh sound. That's going to be the ball flying by you," Matthews told me before we started. "Then you're going to swing, and there's gonna be some giggles coming out of the dugout."
Inspiring stuff, Bobby. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear but you were spot on.
Nickie threw 22 pitches. Some broke away, others in. The ball dropped, danced and flat out flew by me. Eyes closed and flinching, and as far off the plate as my 5-foot-7-inch frame would allow, I fouled one off and hit a weak ground ball that stopped meekly at the outfield grass out by second base. Every other pitch found the catcher's mitt in nearly the same instant my brain knew it had left Nickie's hand.
She was killing me. No, toying with me.
I saw the ball break in ways I hadn't before. A riseball? Seriously, what is that? Thanks a ton Magnus effect. Even science was against me here.
There were times when I felt like Nickie was even rooting for me to get one. Even that didn't help. For the record, she generously gave me the option to bunt. But there was no way I was putting my face that close to the ball. Thanks, but no thanks.
When I caught her giggling devilishly on the mound prior to one pitch, I stepped out as fast as I could. I almost got in my car and left.
"Not to be mean or anything, but his best chance is probably just to stick his bat out and me to hit it," Nickie said.
Ironically, that's exactly how I got my only hit on the final pitch of the day. A lucky, off-balance guess on a change-up that felt like a merciful gift. Either way, it felt good to at least accomplish my goal of getting one out of the infield.
Easily one of the most intimidating prep athletes I've seen at 6-foot-1, Nickie Blue also has to be one of the nicest I've met. After she finished making me look foolish, I half expected her to pat me on the head like a toddler, tell me how cute my little BoCoPreps.com jersey was, and thank me for coming.
Seeing her stuff first-hand, there's no longer any mystery as to how Nickie Blue posted a 0.47 ERA and struck out 287 batters in 149 innings her senior season at Niwot.
Nickie introduced me to a myriad of underhanded pitches like the screwball, dropball and the dreaded riseball that make fastpitch softball such a unique sport.
I'm just glad she didn't introduce any of them to by backside.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi