« Softball 2009

Stacey Nelson

School

University of Florida

Position
Pitcher
Major
Philosophy
ERA
.41
W-L
39-3

Classroom

In 2008, Stacey earned ESPN The Magazine First-Team Academic All-America honors, as she was the first softball player to be named to the first team.  She was also the first in program history to be honored with both All-America and Academic All-America accolades in the same season.  The philosophy major has also been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll twice.  Stacey Nelson has high hopes for her career; she knows she can do so much more to help the world around her.  Her ambition is to attend law school where she would like to study humanitarian law and work for the International Criminal Court, prosecuting war criminals in Africa.

Character

One of the first words that come to mind when describing senior softball pitcher Stacey Nelson is selfless.  Her coaches use it, her teammates use it and her trainers use it.  She exemplifies the meaning of the word on the pitching mound, in the locker room, as a motivator.  She also demonstrates the meaning of selfless off the field, as she spends much of her free time volunteering and working toward her goal of becoming a child advocate.  Humility is another characteristic of Stacey Nelson and it shows in everything she does.  “She cares for others and would rather her teammates receive awards than herself.”  Walton said.  “She has always stated that she would trade in some of her awards so that some more of her teammates can get recognition.”  Nelson notes her teammates are her best friends.  Fellow senior Kim Waleszonia grew together as many of their accomplishments and accolades came at the same times.  As juniors, they both earned All-American status as only the second and third Gators to do so in Florida history.  Nelson was also part of Waleszonia’s support system when her father passed away from cancer before the start of the 2008 season. On the field, Nelson strives to keep a positive attitude while pushing them to be the best.  “I never feel the need to harp on anything anyone does,” she said.  “Every single person is responsible for the success of this team and I know we all try hard.  I try to use my actions to push the team on the field.”  Just recently, Nelson was honored with UF’s 2008 Ben Hill Griffin Award, given to the top male and female athlete at the University of Florida.  The award is primarily based on athletic achievement but academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement are also facts.

Community

The number of Nelson’s extra-curricular activities rivals her athletic awards.  A representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), she was a co-chairman of Climb for Cancer, which gives children with cancer a chance to play sports with UF student-athletes.  She also has spent time at various elementary schools in the Gainesville area, reading to children and being a mentor.  As a member of the softball team, she helped build a home for a local family through Habitat for Humanity and has spent the last four holiday seasons delivery sneakers to children through the UAA’s Gator Tracks program.  Last fall, Nelson spent time at Terwilliger Elementary School once a week, playing with disabled students at recess.  She has spent a lot of time working in the classrooms of Gainesville.  She read to students at Prairie View Elementary and mentored a seventh-grader student at P.K. Younge.  Nelson said the two spent time talking about life and participating in leadership activities.  She spoke to fifth graders at Talbot Elm Elementary about what it takes to succeed.  She also read to patients at Shands Hospital, the University of Florida’s teaching hospital.  Nelson also works to send positive messages to the youth of the area she lives and plays in.  She recently recorded a television commercial for Smoke Free Florida, explaining she does not smoke or chew tobacco as it would hinder her performance.  She also visited local schools as part of the Red Ribbon campaign to teach children the dangers of drugs.  Nelson was also asked to help with an oral history project earlier in the fall of 2008, through the University of Florida.  She interviewed people who participated in the Freedom Summer of 1964.  She questioned the people of Indianola, Miss., about their first voting experience and their struggle to obtain that right.

Competition

Stacey had an immediate impact on the Gators as a freshman.  She tied the school record for wins by a freshman (14) and saves (5).  Her 18 complete games still ranks as the most by a freshman in UF history. She was the winning pitcher in the 3-2 victory over top-ranked Michigan, marking the program’s first win over a No. 1 team.  Stacey improved with age.  Her sophomore year the Gators recorded their first-ever 50-win season.  She was responsible for 34 victories, striking out 285 and owning a 0.95 earned run average.  She was named Easton first-team and NFCA second-team All-America, as well as NFCA first-team All-Southeast Region and Southeastern Conference second-team.  She threw six one-hit games on the season, including the SEC Tournament opener against Mississippi State.  As the Gators went on to win an NCAA-record 70 games, Stacey’s junior year proved to be her best to date.  She earned Easton and NFCA first-team honors, as well as first-team NFCA All-Southeast Region and All-SEC accolades.  She led the nation in winning percentage with a 47-5 record (.904) while leading the SEC and setting school records in strikeouts (363) and ERA (0.75).  Stacey’s 21-1 conference record, earned her the 2008 SEC Pitcher of the Year title, as she struck out 127 SEC opponents, allowing only 84 hits and a .178 opponent batting average.  She was named SEC Tournament MVP and to the Women’s College World Series All-Tournament team.  She was also a top-10 finalist for USA Softball’s Colleigate Player of the Year.  In the young 2009 season, Nelson has already raked in the honors.  She was named to the All-SEC Preseason team, as the Gators were picked to win the SEC.  She was also named to the Collegiate Player of the Year watch list for the second straight time.  Stacey currently holds seven Florida career pitching records and 13 single-season records.  She is also the only pitcher in school history to rank in the top 20 for career fielding percentage (.968) and she threw a school-record 46.2 shutout innings during the historic 2008 season.