Regardless of the softball field that Lake Dallas sophomore catcher Shelby Nelson played on this season, you were bound to see a smile on her face.
It wasn’t just the offensive power that she brought to the top of the Lady Falcon lineup that made her grin from ear to ear. It was also a selfless and positive attitude that helped to lead Lake Dallas to its first postseason appearance since 2016.
Of course, anytime that she stepped into a batter’s box, Nelson had a chance to hit one over the wall. She hit 10 home runs, finished with a whopping .500 batting average, drove in a team-best 25 runs and drew 11 walks.
“My season, I would say, was pretty successful,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people would say that, too. I didn’t really see it that way going into it, because everybody goes into it cocky if you do start hitting well. I stayed relaxed and it helped me to success.”
Becoming one of the most feared home run hitters in the area came through a lot of hard work in the batting cages. Every Monday, she drives to Fort Worth to work with a hitting coach. Every Thursday, she is in Denton to work on her hitting and also to take catching lessons.
Nelson was quick to praise the coaches that she has worked with over the years.
One of the first people to introduce Nelson to the game of softball was Doug Gorsuch. He took her under his wing starting at 2 years old. When Nelson was 10, Gorsuch had her catching his daughter, former Lewisville High School pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch, who is now throwing for LSU.
Unfortunately, Doug Gorsuch, who has also served as Nelson’s club coach for Glory Atkins Gold, passed away on April 16.
“I owe him a lot,” Nelson said. “He believed in me and made me fall in love with the game. He truly gave me the confidence I needed and he knew me better than most. I can’t thank him enough for what he did in my life. I wouldn’t be the player that I am today without him.”
Gorsuch guided Glory Atkins Gold to an appearance in a Triple Crown tournament two years ago in Georgia, but it was there where Nelson suffered an injury that later required her to be away from the softball field for several months.
Nelson and her Glory Atkins Gold teammates were nearing the end of their third straight game when she heard something in her shoulder snap out of place. Not wanting to be removed from the game, she never disclosed her injury to Gorsuch. But, moments after the contest was over, Nelson went to her dad, Kyle, and told him that something didn’t feel right.
“It just felt really heavy,” Shelby said. “I just thought that I could play through it and maybe I could feel better later on.”
Nelson didn’t feel better.
Glory Atkins played in their fourth straight game less than an hour later, and by the end of that game, she said that she could “barely through the ball back” to her pitcher.
The injury never healed, and last February, she found out that she had a torn labrum. With her surgeon telling her that her shoulder won’t hurt anymore than what it is, Nelson put off surgery and competed with her teammates before going under the knife not long after the conclusion of her junior season.
Shoulder surgery wasn’t the only hardship that she had to deal with last year.
Kyle had complications from surgery that he needed because of issues associated with Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the flat pink lining of the swallowing tube that connects the mouth to the stomach becomes damaged by acid reflux, which causes the lining to thicken and become red.
Shelby said that Kyle woke up throwing blood and couldn’t stop. Acid ate a hole in his stomach, which caused him to bleed internally. And, while in the hospital, he developed three blood clots in his legs and six more in his chest. He was on a ventilator for six days and spent a total of three months in the hospital.
“It was a very scary time,” Shelby said. “It was a tough 2020, but we are stronger for it.”
As for Shelby, she completed physical therapy as part of her recovery from shoulder surgery in December and was back on the softball field just one month later.
"I was kind of nervous going back into it,” she said. “My first at-bat was in a scrimmage. It was my first time seeing a real pitcher in a year. After a few scrimmages, I felt that I was slowly getting back into it. But, once district started, I put all of my fears behind me."
District play didn’t get off to the start that Nelson nor her Lady Falcons had wanted. Lake Dallas started conference play with a record of 1-5, but after a 12-0 loss to Northwest on March 26, the Lady Falcons proceeded to turn things around in a big way, on their way to earning fourth place and wrapping up a playoff berth in the process.
In Lake Dallas’ game at Denton Ryan on April 13, Lady Falcons fans received quite the scare as Nelson came off the field in pain after injuring her shoulder while sliding into first base.
A few feet away from the team’s dugout, a team trainer popped her shoulder back in place. Although Nelson missed the remainder of that game – the Lady Falcons defeated the Lady Raiders, 14-9, in extra innings – but she was cleared to return to action the following day.
“It kind of freaked me out a little bit,” she said. “It freaked me out more than it hurt.”
Although the season didn’t end the way that Nelson had wanted, as Aledo swept Lake Dallas, 12-0 and 16-3, in a bi-district playoff series, she was ecstatic to have her father in the stands throughout her team’s journey this season.
"He's really hard on me," Shelby said. "He never really sugar coats anything. He said that he was really proud of me. It was pretty rewarding to hear that from him."