Softball’s Vanderdrink fills void at first base left by Nakken

Clifton Jones

After the end of last season, the Sacramento State softball team saw No. 22 first baseman Alyssa Nakken leave while another No. 22 began preparing to fill her shoes.

Freshman first baseman and shortstop Alyssa Vanderdrink took over first base after former first baseman Nakken graduated last season.

“Alyssa (Vanderdrink) is a great athlete. Coming into fall ball, she was really a shortstop and third baseman,” said softball head coach Kathy Strahan. “I thought she would do well at first base and she has for us.”

Nakken said when she attended a UC Berkeley vs. Sac State fall game in Stockton, she saw Vanderdrink with her former number and even sporting the same hair color.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that looks a lot like me,’” Nakken said. “A lot of the players said, ‘Yeah, it is like you never left the team.’”

Vanderdrink had no idea whose shoes she was filling at first base until she finally met Nakken in person at the home series game against Weber State on April 14.

“We didn’t really talk until the Weber State series in how similar we really are. It was exciting to finally meet her that weekend,” Vanderdrink said.

Even though both Nakken and Vanderdrink have the same body build, hair color, number and first name, they are also from two different parts of California – Nakken is from the north and Vanderdrink is from the south.

Nakken grew up in Woodland, Calif., where she attended and played three sports at Woodland High School: volleyball, basketball and four varsity seasons of softball.

Nakken played all four years at first base and as a pitcher . As a pitcher, Nakken went 29-11 in her last two years with a 1.67 ERA, striking out 331 batters while allowing 33 walks in 244.2 innings of work. Offensively, her last two years at Woodland High School she hit .558 batting average with 14 home runs. 

Nakken left an impression as a Hornet when she appeared in most of the games of her career, only missing 11 because of a hamstring injury her freshman year. Nakken appeared in 184 games as a Hornet, nine of those games she pitched and played as a designated hitter.

She finished with a .301 career batting average scoring 115 times with 34 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs, 83 RBIs and a .375 on-base percentage.

As a graduate from Sac State, Nakken is working in the finance department at Northwestern Mutual, but in July she is planning on moving to San Francisco to attend the University of San Francisco for her master’s in sports management. 

She is hoping to get an internship in marketing and broadcasting with either the San Francisco 49ers or Giants.

“My long-term goal is to be an athletic director (I hope) for a Division I school,” Nakken said.

Vanderdrink on the other hand, grew up in Lake Elsinore, Calif., and attended Elsinore High School where she started for the varsity softball all four years at third base and as a pitcher.

In her first season as a Hornet, Vanderdrink started 33-35 – 27 of those games were at first base and the last three at shortstop. Although it’s Vanderdrink’s first season, she is leading the team in home runs and co-leads in RBIs.

“Like Nakken, Vanderdrink is an inspiration because she is willing to play almost every position for us,” Strahan said.

Vanderdrink is hitting .241 with four home runs, two doubles and 14 RBIs. Strahan said she likes the idea of Vanderdrink moving to her natural side of the diamond by playing shortstop the rest of the year.

“Vanderdrink is strong and lanky with a great arm. She also is hitting the ball well which will improve more next season,” Strahan said. “She is a great shortstop for us this season, the move to shortstop may be permanent.”

 Although Vanderdrink is leading the team in home runs, there was still a transition for her from high school to Division I style of play.

“I had to do a little transition on my offense because during the fall I struggled, but coach Hoyt helped a lot on being more aggressive on first pitch strikes,” Vanderdrink said.

Nakken said she is happy to see Vanderdrink representing her old number well this season.

“She is still leading the team with home runs and tied in RBIs, which is awesome,” Nakken said. “She is doing great things with the No. 22 for Sac State.” 


Clifton can be reached on Twitter at @jonesSHsports