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Cheyenne Nunez ready for NCAA Division I ball

It didn’t take long for Cheyenne Nunez to determine where her next stop will be in her college softball career.

One trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina is all it took for Nunez to know that the University of South Carolina Upstate is an ideal fit.

“I fell in love with it. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to a lot of places,” said the former Junior Miss Florida Seminole from the Brighton Reservation.

Nunez, a sophomore who has played two years of junior college softball for the State College of Florida in Bradenton, committed to USC Upstate on April 1. She’ll enter as a junior and have two years of playing eligibility. As if to celebrate the good news, three days after making the commitment she smacked her first home run and drove in four runs in a 10-4 win against South Florida State College.

USC Upstate, a NCAA Division I program, has been led by coach Chris Hawkins for the past 25 years. The Spartans play in the Big South Conference. Their non-conference schedule this season included ACC and Big Ten schools as well as SEC powerhouse LSU, which as the ninth-ranked team in the nation narrowly defeated USC Upstate, 2-0, in Baton Rouge.

Nunez’s visit included spending time with current players, who showed her around campus and the town.

“It felt like home,” said Nunez, daughter of Peggy and Daniel Nunez Sr. “The facilities and the academic center are nice. It felt like such a good fit for me. Everything was awesome. I always dreamt about going Division I and now it’s finally happening.”

“I think it’s a great fit for her. The coaching staff will be really good for her,” said SCF coach Mandy Schuerman.

Nunez, a speedy and versatile centerfielder who bats in the leadoff spot, said an initial connection with USC Upstate was made early in the season when USC Upstate’s coach saw her play at a tournament early in Clearwater. She said SCF’s announcer Chuck Landers, whose daughter played at USC Upstate, put in a good word for her, too, which helped.

A strong regular season for Nunez and SCF ended April 25. The team was ranked nationally among junior colleges in April. Entering the postseason in early May, SCF had a 44-14 record. Nunez shattered the team record for most stolen bases in a season; she had 38 as of the end of the regular season. She also led the squad in hits (67) and runs (54) and was tied with two teammates for the best batting average (.364).

“She’s been quite consistent, always looking to improve, which I really like about her. She’s really a hard worker,” Schuerman said.

Power isn’t a big part of Nunez’s game; her strengths are found in her ability to reach base and then steal bases.

“I don’t look for home runs or triples. I just try to find a way on, with a walk, hit, get hit by a pitch,” she said.

Nunez described her two years at SCF as “literally life-changing.”

“All my coaches are amazing. I love all of them,” she said, adding that she made great friendships with teammates. “I’ll never forget them.”

With Nunez headed to USC Upstate, next year is shaping up to be a potential memorable one as the Seminole Tribe could have three players on Division I softball teams. Ahnie Jumper is currently in her sophomore season at Florida Gulf Coast University. Jillian Rodriguez recently signed with Tennessee State University.

State College of Florida sophomore Cheyenne Nunez, the school’s all-time leader in stolen bases, is pointed toward second base during a game in Fort Myers on April 11 against Florida SouthWestern State College, the nation’s No. 1 ranked junior college team. Nunez will be headed to South Carolina later this year to play for the University of South Carolina Upstate. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Cheyenne Nunez helps fire up her team in a game April 11 in Fort Myers. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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