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HOUSTON - When Aaron Fuller started preparing for the 2022 season - a year after bringing the first-ever State Championship for softball back to Barbers Hill - he knew there would be some holes to fill.
On the team that would try and defend the hardware nestled on a shelf inside Barbers Hill High School, arguably the most glaring spot to fill was in the circle.
Fuller would head into the season without his aces from the title season - Sophia Simpson (University of Texas) and Samantha Landry (University of Louisiana) - so, who would fill the spot?
Step in Hailey Nutter - a freshman.
"Stepping in the role they had last year had been a challenge kind of because knowing I just have to be myself in the circle and do everything to my best ability is all I can do," Nutter said.
Talk about a tall task for a freshman to take over for a pair of collegiate hurlers. But turn on the video.
Nutter comes set in the circle, whips her right arm around and fires away over and over. She makes defensive plays making diving catches on bunt attempts. She hits home runs.
Heading into this week, Nutter was 11-3 overall with 116 strikeouts, 18 walks and just 10 earned runs allowed, sporting a 1.02 ERA in 68 innings.
"Hailey has been a huge part of our success this season," Fuller said. "What she's been able to do, keeping us in ball games and beating really good teams has been fun to watch. The fact taht she's only a freshman makes it even more impressive. Our team has really rallied around her, and we've been playing pretty well this year."
💙 BH 🦅🥎 wins 6-0 vs Crosby, leading district 7-0. I had 16 k’s, 0 walks, 1 hit, 0 runs. Hit a double scoring 2. @bh_softball @JacobyBG16U @bombercoach @TXStateSoftball @QrRecruiter @LegacyLegendsS1 @gregkennedy9 @scan1ansports @Coach_Jo_Evans @Coach_SniderSB @CoachSingTexas pic.twitter.com/9MNabYPpZe— Hailey Nutter (@HaileyNutter77) April 2, 2022
At the beginning of the season, Fuller threw Nutter into the fire.
The freshman faced the likes of Atascocita, Clear Springs, Crosby and defending Class 6A State Champion Deerk Park. Against Atascocita in a scrimmage she allowed just one run in six innings, threw five scoreless against Clear Springs and got wins against district-rival Crosby and Deer Park.
"Her confidence grows each outing, and she knows she can pitch against, and beat, the best teams in the state," Fuller said.
Nutter isn't letting the early-season success get to her head though. Barbers Hill's newly minted ace is staying "humble and keeps working hard"
"I feel like in the circle I have done well of working my spots and just relaxing and having fun," Nutter said. "There is a bunch more I can work on because no one is perfect but one big thing I can work in is showing a little more emotion when big things happen."
pic.twitter.com/H8MkTOeeaN— Hailey Nutter (@HaileyNutter77) March 10, 2022
What about the nerves?
Being a freshman starting night in and night out for the defending State Champions comes with each team giving you their best shot every single time.
Of course, there have been some nerves, but Nutter complements her teammates for getting her through them in her first varsity campaign.
"I had nerves, but my team is what has helped me calm them down and keep them under control," Nutter said. "This season has been an experience but a really great one I have had ups and downs but like I said knowing my team is there for me makes everything so much better."
Sopia Simpson is headed to the University of Texas
What a night it was as the 2021 VYPE Awards presented by Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine! VYPE handed out awards to the top athletes in his and her respective sports.
Teams and coaches were also recognized. Here are the awards for Public School Softball.
To watch the show in its entirety, CLICK HERE.
Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine is Houston's leading provider of orthopedic services, from sports medicine to joint replacement. Houston Methodist offers comprehensive diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative services with a high standard of excellence for elite athletes, active adults and student athletes. Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for the Houston Texans, Houston Astros, Rice Athletics, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera.