NIWOT — Niwot’s Nickie Blue hasn’t had much luck with awards in her sports career so she didn’t want to get her hopes up too high for this season.
So much for that cautionary idea.
In collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, The Gatorade Company announced Thursday that it has selected Blue as the Gatorade Colorado Softball Player of the Year.
“It’s great to see that my hard work is being recognized not just locally but also nationally,” Blue said. “I know there were a lot of good players up for the award so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. It’s really an honor.”
Bound for South Carolina next season, the 6-foot-1 senior is the first player from Niwot High School to be selected for the award.
Blue led the Cougars (23-2) to the Class 4A state championship game in the fall. She finished the season with a 21-2 record and an 0.47 earned-run average in the circle. At the plate, she batted .520 with five home runs and 33 RBIs.
Even with the impressive numbers she put up, Blue couldn’t help her softball superstition from creeping into her player of the year contest mentality.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Blue said. “When (Niwot coach Bobby Matthews) told me I was nominated for it, I didn’t want to tell anyone and jinx it. When my friends found out I won, they were all like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?'”
In her career, Blue set Niwot’s single-season and career strikeout records, single-season and career batting average records, and single-season and career wins records. She leaves the Cougars with 658 strikeouts in three years of pitching against 61 walks, an 0.79 ERA, and a .485 career batting average at the plate.
“She’s an intimidating presence on the mound, and she has wonderful command of her pitches,” Broomfield head coach Paula Seifried said in a press release. “She’s an excellent offensive player too, a very strong hitter.”
Blue’s award comes five months after track and field teammate Elise Cranny was named the 2012-13 Gatorade Colorado Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Blue, who far exceeded her preliminary No. 17-seed in the discus by finishing seventh at the 2013 state track meet, helped the Cougars girls track team with the school’s first-ever state team title in May.
The Gatorade Player of the Year usually goes on to bigger and better things. Former Legacy standout Rainey Gaffin, who won the award the past two years, recently played for Tennessee in the NCAA national championship game.
Blue led a young team that played five underclassmen to the state title game. Matthews said the Cougars would not have had they season they did — 4A state runner-up, regional champions, and Northern League champions — without Blue.
“It’s a prestigious award. We’re all excited for her because we know what kind of player she is,” Matthews said. “It gives all our young girls something to look up to and try to reach. It’s huge for Nickie and it’s huge for our program. It’s a really big deal.”
Other factors in Blue’s selection were a 3.75 GPA, as well as volunteer work on behalf of the Salvation Army, youth softball programs, and an elementary school literacy-outreach initiative.
Gatorade’s prestigious list of past state players of the year includes Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Abby Wambach and other household names. Blue is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award to be announced later in June. She will play out the summer with the Triple Crown Stars club team before joining the Gamecocks.
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