Jamestown High School senior Alex Nihill won the first varsity softball game she started as a pitcher for the Blue Jays: a 9-6 decision over visiting Valley City on April 26, 2016.
Standing behind the then eighth-grader at shortstop was her older sister, Olivia, who had coincidentally just earned the pitching win in the first half of a doubleheader versus the Hi-Liners at Trapper Field. On Wednesday, it was announced both sisters will end their careers as all-stars.
Alex Nihill has been named a 2020 North Dakota Scheels Softball All-Star Series selection, one of 17 athletes tabbed to fill the West All-Stars roster. Due to COVID-19, however, the senior series won’t take place this summer.
Olivia Nihill was selected to participate in the all-star event as a senior in 2018.
“Softball has meant the world to me. It’s by far my favorite sport,” Alex Nihill said. “So just getting to play all those years on varsity, especially with my sister … that was super fun to be able to play with her.”
Nihill is currently trying to make the most of her final few days at Jamestown High with a limited live graduation ceremony scheduled for May 24. Prior to the pandemic, Blue Jay softball was looking to get back to the state tournament this spring for the first time since winning 19 games during Nihill’s eighth-grade season.
“I’m just trying to get through all my schoolwork and trying to figure out how I’ll handle all the graduation stuff with the limited amount of people,” Nihill said.
JHS seniors, including softball players Nihill, Rachel Woodley and Sadie Meissner, will be limited to having four family members or friends present at the Jamestown Civic Center for graduation.
“It’s just kinda hard to process when you’ve hoped for all this your senior year and it gets taken away from you,” Nihill said. “I’ve just been trying to keep my teammates’ heads up. Obviously they’re sad for us three seniors, but we have to make sure that they know everything’s going to be OK and we’ll be there to support (them) next year.”
The Blue Jays won 16 games last spring and were one win away from the program’s third state tournament appearance. The team was also returning its entire roster in 2020.
Nihill slashed .358/.452/.457 at the plate in 25 games as a junior, driving in 16 runs while crossing the plate 18 times. The third baseman/pitcher also started seven games in the circle, earning 34 strikeouts with an ERA of 4.92.
“As a team, we were just really hoping to make it to state,” Nihill said. “We were so close last year, and since we didn’t lose anyone we were hoping we could take it a step further with this team.”
In lieu of physical games, this year’s Scheels all-stars will receive both a plaque and a commemorative jersey, as well as various social media and press coverage, according to a press release issued by event organizers.
The all-star nominating and voting process is conducted by the state’s high school softball coaches.
"It was really important to us that we recognize this senior group," North Dakota Softball All-Stars President Tim How said. "I just hope we can shine some light on these kids during these uncertain and unprecedented times.”
Nihill plans to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead in the fall to pursue a major in speech therapy. Olivia Nihill also ended her competitive athletic career as a Blue Jay and is currently majoring in radiology at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
“I’ve just been trying to make the best of the situation and being named to the all-star team is a pretty big honor,” Alex Nihill said. “So at least I get a little bit of recognition for all the hard work I’ve put in over the last couple of years.”
Scheels Softball All-Star Series
Josie Buhr, Central Cass; Isabelle Linnard, Central Cass; Kaitlyn Houle, Central Cass; Spenser Mohr, Fargo Davies; Julia Soleim, Grand Forks Red River; Maxine Ebel, Hankinson-Fairmount-Rosholt-Campbell/Tintah-Lidgerwood; Saige Forseth, Hillsboro-Central Valley; Madison Olien, Kindred-Richland; Dallas Jorgensen, May-Port-CG Area; Cali Schanzenbach, Fargo Shanley; Madysen Reimche, Fargo Shanley; Danika Balvik, West Fargo Sheyenne; Macy Jordheim, Thompson; Jessica Undem, Valley City; Torrance Nichols Kraft, West Fargo; Mariah Peters, West Fargo; Macy Weible, West Fargo.
Cassidy Nelson, Beulah; Grace Candrian, Minot Bishop Ryan; Emma Barta, Bismarck; Madeline Grad, Bismarck Century; Erica Hermanson, Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark; Ali Lafond, Dickinson; Emy Personne, Dickinson; Abby Kessel, Heart River; Mattea Binstock, Heart River; Alex Nihill, Jamestown; Alexis Dressler, Bismarck Legacy; Rylee Stotz, Mandan; Landry Maragos, Minot; Cambria Pretzer, Minot; Janie Savelkoul, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood/Kenmare/Bowbells; Emma Passa, Velva/Drake-Anamoose; Jordan Waldren, Washburn.