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What It Was Like For Grace Nieto As A Freshman In The WCWS

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(Photo by Joshua Hoffman/NU Sports)

Grace Nieto was the starting second baseman for the Northwestern Wildcats during her freshman year in 2022. The Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection started all 58 games her team played and came up clutch for the Wildcats during the postseason.

Softball America caught up with Nieto to recap her first year at Northwestern, learn what it was like to be a freshman playing in the Women's College World Series and discuss how she’s preparing to accomplish her team’s goals in 2023.

Softball America: How did you feel your freshman season went?

Grace Nieto: I think our team as a whole did so well and it was an amazing experience for me, as a freshman, to be a part of a team like that. The chemistry was great, which I think really helped us play so well together and create a bond that really made our season fun to be a part of. Our season went really well because of the people I was around. The awards that our program and players won are amazing, but I think it was the bonds with the people I met during my first season that was the best part.

SA: What was the hardest thing for you to learn or adjust to on the field as a college softball player?

GN: The speed of the game. I played at a high level in travel ball, so I thought I was going to be prepared for how fast everything goes, but I was not. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for that. The speed of the game and the intensity were a bit new to me and it took me some time to adjust.

SA: How were you able to balance academics at Northwestern with softball?

GN: I’m not going to lie, it’s very tough, but we have so many people to help us between our advisors, coaches and tutors. We have so many resources that we can use all the time. Our academic advising crew is very involved with our season, which made it a lot easier being a freshman at an academically challenging school. The support from everyone made it easier to adjust.

SA: What was the most valuable thing you learned during your freshman year?

GN: The most valuable thing I learned freshman year was to just stick with it. Starting as a freshman was very tough and there were lots of ups and downs, but my coaches and upperclassmen teammates always reminded me to stay focused and stick with whatever I’m doing. I would freak out if I went 0-for-3, but everyone around me just told me to stick with it and keep going even in hard times. The message I got from the past year was all about resiliency.

SA: What are you most proud of from your freshman year?

GN: Our World Series run. We came into the season unranked, not that rankings matter much, but we were the underdogs until late in the year and we had an incredible Super Regionals experience. Those were the most intense three games I’ve ever played. Then getting to the big stage at the World Series was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. Being a part of that was amazing.

SA: What are you working on this offseason?

GN: Physically, I’m trying to get faster, have a better change of direction and develop a quicker transfer. My main focus is on the mental piece of softball. I think working on my mental performance and confidence would really benefit my game.

SA: You have five seniors from last year using an extra year of eligibility in 2023. What does that mean for your team this coming season?

GN: It’s great for our team. I think the super seniors returning are going to be very helpful for the underclassmen. They have five years of experience at this level, and they are all incredibly kind and talented people. Having them all for another year is going to be super helpful for the chemistry on our team and our performance.

SA: What are the goals for your team in 2023?

GN: To get back to the World Series and win it!

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