Warhorse grad ends softball career on top
For former Barnwell High graduate Nyesha Arnold, the biggest day of her softball career at Claflin College happened May 6 at Diamond Lakes Regional Park in Hephzibah, Ga.
Although nearly two months have passed, Arnold still has a vivid memory of the day when she reached the pinnacle of her playing career.
Arnold recalls being overcome with tears of joy as she celebrated with teammates after defeating Miles College 13-5 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Division II championship.
“Wow! That was a awesome feeling. I just can’t describe it,” Arnold said. “ Our team has been like a family to me and to win a championship in my senior year makes it that much more special.”
Despite the final score, the championship win didn’t come easy for the Claflin Lady Panthers.
Plagued by mistakes and errors, the Lady Panthers started poorly in the game and fell behind by four runs in the first inning.
The Lady Panthers, however, showed their resilience as a team by clawing back, outscoring Miles College 13-1 over the next five innings.
For the game, Claflin College pitcher Tiaria Norman was selected tournament Most Valuable Player. Arnold was among several other players who stood out in the game for the Lady Panthers
Arnold, who had a .901 fielding percentage at third base, finished the game with three hits, including a double, RBI and two runs scored.
Arnold said looking back, the championship game reminded her a lot about her life struggles.
“In life you have to find ways to battle back through adversity. Things definitely weren’t going well for us early in the championship game, but we never gave up on oursleves,” Arnold said. “In a way, it’s like when I first came to Claflin. I had to overcome setbacks with injuries and my heart condition. For me, winning this championship is just a testimony of what prayer and having faith can accomplish.”
Overcoming setbacks is nothing new to Arnold. She was born with an arrhythamia, also called an irregular heartbreat, and had to wear a heart monitor for a year as a baby. Because of her illness, Arnold had to miss several games in high school and on the college level.
However, through all the bumps in the road, Arnold’s parents Rick and Rose Arnold believe their daughter had the courage to make it through the storm.
“God is good and he’s looked over my baby over the years,” Rose Arnold said. “Nyesha has overcome a lot of sickness to get to where she’s at today. Right now I’m so happy for her because she is a champion in spirit as well as on the softball field.”
“We’re extremely proud of our daughter and what she has accomplished. She’s been one determined young lady,” Rick Arnold said.
Among Arnold’s many supporters at the championship game was former coach Carol Massengale of Barnwell High.
From 2010-13, Arnold made all-region four times and all-state twice under Massengale.
Massengale said it is great to see a player like Arnold finish her career on top.
“I’m really happy for Nyesha because she’s one heck of a player,” Massengale said. “Nyesha is a wonderful person and great competitor. She’s one of my all-time special players and we remain close friends today.”
Arnold recently graduated from Claflin College with a Bachelor in Human Performance and Recreation. Last month, she was selected to participate in the 2017 NCAA Career in Sports Forum that was held in Indianapolis, Ind. on June 4.
Arnold was one of two student-athletes who hadshown interest in working within the sports industry to be selected from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Arnold said attending the conference was a great experience.
“I really enjoyed myself at the forum. We learned so much about careers in sports - what goes on behind the scenes, athletic training, recruiting and teaching,” Arnold said.
Arnold said she’s planning a career in athletics and leaning toward coaching softball somewhere in the near future.