The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

May 11, 2014

West fastpitch players prepare for summer of fun

Despite limited experience, duo chosen for USA junior team

A year ago, fastpitch softball wasn’t even on the radar of Mankato West senior Tyler Stoffel or junior Steven Nessler. They were baseball guys who played other high school sports during the fall and winter.

That began to change last June, however, when Steve’s dad, Dan Nessler, pulled a few strings and got his son invited to a USA junior men’s softball tryout camp at Midland, Mich. Dan is a former world class fastpitch player who now coaches the summer Mankato Pepper senior girls team.

Steven attended the tryout and thought “it went pretty well.” He was told they would let him know in February if he had made the team.

“It’s different trying to hit a fastpitch softball than it is a baseball,” Steven said. “I worked out with my dad ahead of time and thought I did OK.”

Two months later, it was Stoffel’s turn. He found out about a fastpitch team at the men’s national tournament at Caswell Park that was in need of a couple of players. He volunteered and ended up playing six games at shortstop for the team.

Before that tournament, Stoffel was told by USA fastpitch officials that they would be scouting the competition for potential players.

“It’s a lot different seeing that ball come in,” he said. “I don’t think I got a hit until my third or fourth game. It took me a good 15-20 at-bats before I felt I made the adjustment.”

In February, USA announced it’s final roster for the 19-under junior men’s team, and both Nessler and Stoffel were on it.

“I was pretty excited, I’m still excited,” Stoffel said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

Nessler said he was a little surprised, but not much.

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