Before winter workouts and tryouts during the spring of 2017, Jamie Minix wasn’t familiar with Nerina Tramp, who first came to Highland Regional High School as a freshman.
Minix had just finished her second year at the helm of the Tartans softball program and was still in the midst of establishing relationships and communication with sending districts, so she hadn’t heard about Tramp’s eventual arrival.
Despite that, she still felt that there was something different about Tramp after witnessing just a few practices.
“I watched her pitch and try out and I just thought to myself that this individual is someone who’s going to step up and take the role of being the starting pitcher pretty much right away,” Minix said. “She came onto the mound freshman year, I put the ball into her hands and that was it … It really wasn’t a question as to if she was going to be able to get the job done.”
But while Minix thought immediately she had something special in Tramp, it’s hard to imagine she could have foreseen that her player would go on to four school records — with the potential for more — as she neared the end of her high-school career.
Tramp can remember at first being concerned with making varsity
“I honestly wasn’t doing so great on the team I was on [before coming to Highland] in my opinion, so I just wanted to try to make varsity as a freshman,” Tramp said.
Now after three years, including a lost junior season due to COVID, Tramp is lighting the entire state on fire with her performances on both the mound and at the plate during senior year.
Through the team’s first 13 games this season, Tramp is hitting .545, with nine home runs, including a streak early this season where she hit home runs in five consecutive games. Those nine home runs have so far put her near the top in the state.
“When she comes up to bat, there’s never a doubt in my mind that she won’t at least put the ball in play every time,” Minix said. “Now, she has nine home runs this year. Did I expect her to have that many? No, but it’s getting to the point where it’s more typical for her to put the ball over the fence during a game than for her not to.”
Two of the aforementioned school records that Tramp now holds are the single season home-run record of nine and the career home-run record of 16, with quite a few games left to go this season.
The other two records are for Tramp’s work on the mound, where she broke the single-season strikeout record her sophomore year with 144, while holding the career strikeout record of 274 with, again, many games still to be played.
Tramp has helped transform the Highland program since her arrival as a Tartan, according to Minix, propelling the team from three- and four-win seasons in the years prior to double-digit-winning seasons every year since. Highland went 10-12 during the 2017-2018 season and 10-10 in 2018-2019.
“You can have an average team with a good pitcher and compete and do things, but we’ve been very fortunate to have a great pitcher [in Tramp] with a very solid group of girls behind her,” Minix said. “So I think it’s finally coming to fruition with being able to compete and being a top-ranked Group III program due to her extremely important role.”
Not able to play her junior year and watching the seniors before her lose out on their last chance to play, Tramp said she feels lucky and is enjoying the opportunity to play at all this year, while acknowledging that some career milestones won’t happen for her the way it looked like they might early in her career.
“I really wanted to get 100 hits this year, but obviously that isn’t realistic with COVID and the number of games we have this year,” Tramp said. “But I’m just really happy to have my senior year at all either way, since those seniors ahead of me didn’t get to have one and I missed playing high-school softball last year.
“I was just excited to get back on the field and be out there with my team one last time,” she added.
While the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the seasons and careers of teams and athletes across South Jersey, a shortened season means Highland has already clinched its first winning season in recent memory.
But according to Tramp, the team still has more on its mind.
“Winning the conference and winning a playoff game has been my goal the past four years,” she said. “I really think we can make that happen this year.”