Vandebilt graduate Nora Keehn will throw the final pitches of her collegiate career in the next couple weeks.
She intends to go out with a bang!
Keehn is a senior pitcher at the University of West Alabama — one of the aces on a team that will make the postseason for the first time since 2014.
Keehn said she her season is going according to plan, adding that she’s happy with her decision to transfer to West Alabama after two seasons playing JUCO ball.
Last week, Keehn was named her conference’s Player of the Week after recording a couple of impressive games in the circle for her team.
“This season has gone really well,” Keehn said. “Our whole team bought into the process of getting into the postseason. I couldn’t ask for a better senior year and a better team to play with for my senior year.”
Keehn’s path to West Alabama all just sort of fell in place.
She started her collegiate career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College — her landing spot after a dominant career at Vandebilt Catholic.
Keehn posted a 35-8 record with a 1.65 ERA at Mississippi Gulf Coast, earning interest from several programs around the South.
She ultimately chose UWA and said the transition to a new school proved interesting.
Last year, Keehn was 5-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 31 appearances — mostly as a reliever. She said learning her new coaches and teammates took an adjustment period — especially while battling an ankle injury throughout last year.
“Last year was a bit difficult,” Keehn said. “Because coming into a new program, you don’t want to overstep boundaries and make it look like you’re trying to be a leader. You want to earn that role, which is also hard because I hurt my ankle, so it was hard to prove what I was capable of.”
But this year, nothing is holding Keehn back.
She said she worked out tirelessly at the Terrebonne General Medical Center Sports Performance Center over the summer and got back 100 percent healthy. Immediately this season, that hard work is paying off.
Keehn is UWA’s ace, owning 36 appearances (26 starts) and a 15-8 record with a 2.64 ERA at press-time.
Keehn’s control in the circle is impeccable. She has just 13 walks out of 624 batters faced, while also posting 15 complete games.
And more importantly, West Alabama is soaring to heights the team hasn’t seen in a while.
The Lady Tigers are 28-19 at press-time and 15-11 in conference games. Last year, the team finished just 20-30.
Keehn said to see that turnaround first-hand has been humbling — especially given her roots. Vandebilt softball is a powerhouse, as is Mississippi Gulf Coast. Last year was the only losing season Keehn’s ever experienced in her career.
“I knew when I committed to this school that it was not known for being a winning program in recent years,” Keehn said. “That’s different for me because my high school and JUCO were both winning programs. But something made me believe in it and it has worked out so well for me this year.”
But now, it’s time to finish with a bang.
Keehn said in the final weeks of the regular season, she wants to pitch as well as she can, helping her team make as long as a run in the postseason as possible.
Keehn said she’s played softball her whole life, adding that her final few weeks in the circle will be emotional, but fulfilling — a time for her to have one last dance with the game she loves.
After graduation, Keehn plans to be an elementary school teacher and coach.
When her season ends, she will also be traveling to Italy to play a short tour overseas.
“It did start to hit me in our second to last home conference series,” Keehn said. “Realizing that this was going to be it soon, not knowing if we were going to make it into the postseason or not hit me hard, and I got really emotional. But I realized that I couldn’t play my last couple of games like that. I had to give my all for my team and my coached and it helped us get into the postseason. I don’t want to remember my last games as me being emotional. I want to remember them in a way that I gave everything I could. And if the other team beats us, then they did it, but I never gave up.”