Jordan Nastos packed her equipment bag in a hurry while her Liberty softball senior teammates gathered with their parents behind the backstop Monday afternoon.
The Lions had just taken care of visiting Joppatowne with ease, and Senior Day festivities were about to begin. Nastos stuffed her catcher’s gear into the bag, along with her mitt and bat. She turned back toward the field before grabbing a white microphone and a handful of papers — the master of ceremonies needed her voice heard so the Lions' seven seniors could be recognized.
Liberty coach Chris Szocik found it fitting his players picked Nastos to be the emcee for the traditional senior send-off. The junior isn’t the most vocal member of the team, but has come a long way since her mom brought her to a Lions practice years ago and told Szocik her daughter would be on varsity one day.
“She was a wee little thing back then,” Szocik said of Nastos, “and her mom said, ‘She’s going to be your catcher one day, Coach.’ I’m like, ‘OK, that sounds good.’ I met her and shook hands and all of that. And sure enough...”
Nastos earned Times all-county first-team honors as a freshman and sophomore, and she’s having another standout season this spring. She’s hitting .509, which sits near the top of the Carroll County Athletic League leaderboard. Nastos has seven doubles, a county-best five triples, and 15 RBIs.
She reached base four times and scored four runs Monday in Liberty’s 16-1 victory.
She’ll take the catcher’s gear off now and then — Nastos said she plays shortstop and outfield for her club team, the Lady Orioles Gold out of Baltimore — but Lions fans can find her behind the plate most days. Szocik said he never had any problems with Nastos’ leading by example.
Getting her to express herself off the field, however, was a little tougher. And Nastos agreed with her coach.
“Freshman year I didn’t talk a lot,” Nastos said after Monday’s game. “It was a different dynamic. All the seniors left, and then I started playing with the team [we have] now. And I started to grow close to some of the players. It kind of helped me come out of my shell, I guess. That has really helped me develop.”
Nastos said she took to softball at an early age when she began hitting off a tee, likely around the same time her mother trotted her across the ball fields at Liberty and into a Lions practice session. She plays field hockey in the fall and basketball in the winter, but said softball is her favorite.
She shared the CCAL lead last spring with nine doubles, and batted .447 with two triples. The year before, Nastos hit .388 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, and 12 RBIs.
Szocik said he could see talent and drive almost from the start of Nastos’ varsity career. He had to urge her to move into the No. 3 spot in Liberty’s lineup, knowing Nastos had one of the better bats on this year’s squad, even though Nastos wanted to lead off as she did in seasons past.
And Szocik said the Lions follow their catcher’s lead.
“Everybody on the team, it’s kind of like a, ‘Don’t mess with Jordan. She’ll tear you up’ kind of an attitude,’” Szocik said. “She’ll be there to be the captain next year. We’ve got her for another year.”
Assuming that role is something Nastos takes pride in, even if she’s not the first one on the team to speak up.
She said Liberty is motivated to make a deeper postseason run this season, despite the team’s 5-12 record. The Lions are a veteran group with more than one leader, but Nastos has emerged as their go-to player. And it’s by design.
“I always just … like to go,” Nastos said about her up-tempo style of play, whether it’s taking the extra base as a runner or firing the ball to one of her teammates on defense. Szocik also chimed in on his catcher’s energy level, one he hopes the rest of the Lions can share.