Nations adds more honors after another standout pitching campaign

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Brookhaven native Haley Nations has added more achievements to an already decorated career as a left-handed pitcher for the William Carey University softball team.

In 2019, Nations was named Freshman of the Year for the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC). Last year, she was tabbed as the Pitcher of the Year.

Recently, on the heels of helping to lead the Crusaders to a 48-11 overall record, Nations was named Pitcher of the Year again and added the honor of being named 2022 SSAC Player of the Year.

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One doesn’t have to be familiar with the ins and outs of softball to know that Nations was a dominating force in the circle for the Crusaders in 2022.

The Brookhaven High alum, who also pitched for Enterprise in high school, appeared in 36 games for Carey in 2022. She finished with a 25-6 record and earned one save. Nations struck out 262 batters and issued 55 walks.

Nations ended the season with a freakishly low earned runs average of 0.91. In over 208 innings pitched, she gave up just one home run in 2022.

Carey’s season ended one game short of reaching the NAIA World Series earlier this week. The Crusaders finished second in the SSAC Tournament last month in Decatur, Alabama with both loses coming to the University of Mobile in the tourney.

Mobile (49-2) has been the top NAIA team in the country all season and Carey was one of the two teams to beat the Rams with a 5-0 win at Mobile on April 19.

In the second meeting between the schools at the conference tourney, Mobile won 1-0 as Nations struck out six, walked three and scattered five hits. The winning hit for Mobile came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Carey earned the right to host a first-round regional in Hattiesburg but couldn’t generate much offense in their first game — a 1-0 loss to Bryan College of Dayton, Tennessee.

WCU battled back to then beat Marian University of Indianapolis 4-3 in eight innings and then gained revenge on Bryan by knocking them from the tournament with an 11-2 win.

That set the Crusaders up to face Webber International of Babson Park, Florida in the championship game. Undefeated Webber would need to be beaten twice for Carey to move on to the World Series.

Nations saved perhaps her gutsiest performance of the season for that first matchup with Webber.

In a 12-inning marathon, she only allowed four hits and struck out 19 batters on 187 pitches in a 3-0 win.

Nations devastated the Webber batters with her dropball and screwball. The daughter of Joel and Neely Nations, she credits improvements in her control for taking her pitching to another level.

“Every year I’ve aimed to add a pitch to what I can throw or to improve something like my spin or break on my pitches,” said Nations. “Over my years at Carey I’ve been able to add better break and spin to everything I throw.”

The rematch between Carey and Webber in the tournament finale ended up breaking bad for the Crusaders from the start. Two errors in the first inning staked Webber to a 2-0 lead and Carey never recovered in a 5-1 loss with all the runs for the visitors coming of the unearned variety.

In the third inning of game two, Nations let Carey coach Craig Fletcher know that she’d take the circle again if her team needed it.

She ended up pitching the final two innings of the finale and giving up no hits while striking out two. Carey got two runners aboard in each of the final three innings of the finale but couldn’t manufacture a scoring hit.

Being the ace of the staff since stepping on campus, Nations knows more than most about what pressure in athletics feels like.

Do the close games excite her or make her feel sick to her stomach?

“It’s a little bit of both,” said Nations. “It definitely puts the pressure on when neither team is scoring, but I just use that excitement to motivate me to stay focused and as sharp as possible with every pitch.”

A biology major who plans to pursue a career in athletic training, Nations will give herself a break before beginning to work towards her final season as a Crusader.

“I’ll take some time off and let my body recover for a couple weeks,” said Nations. “I’m going to stay in Hattiesburg and work at my job and keep working out — a trip to the World Series is already the goal for next year.”