The best softball teams used to hail only from the West Coast. Peaches (James) Keaton changed that.
The former Papillion-La Vista and Nebraska star put Nebraska softball on the map with her dominating presence and performances in the pitcher's circle.
"Once I got to college and started playing the UCLAs and Arizonas and being successful, that's when I realized somebody from Nebraska can be just as good," Keaton said.
Keaton finished her career as the state's most decorated pitcher. She had a 0.04 ERA during her senior year at Papio, pitched three consecutive perfect games and threw 162 1/3 consecutive shutout innings between 1998 and 1999.
She led Nebraska to the 2002 Women's College World Series before finishing her career with 98 wins and 945 strikeouts and ranking first in school history with 44 shutouts. Keaton still holds the single-season Nebraska record for strikeouts (394) and shutouts (18).
In 2004, Keaton won the Ware Award, presented annually by The World-Herald to the four-year college athlete in Nebraska who, in the judgment of the newspaper’s editors, made the most significant achievement in sports while representing the best traditions of his or her institution. She was the first softball player to net the honor.
In 2010, Keaton became the fourth former Husker softball player to have her jersey retired.
Following her time at Nebraska, Keaton pitched professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch league and was an All-Star in 2005. She has been inducted into the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame (2011), the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame (2014) and the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame (2015).
Keaton became synonymous with softball in Nebraska. Since she started pitching at Papillion, her success always brought expectations that she often lived up to. At a summer tournament in Topeka, Kansas, Keaton won eight games in one day as her team battled back through the losers bracket to qualify for a national tournament, winning the final game after midnight.
"I would play how I know how to play and not try to live up to those expectations," she said.
Played for: Papillion-La Vista High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Texas Thunder and New York/New Jersey Juggernaut
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Kari Shank, who played at Creighton. "She was my catcher during the summer, so she knew me the best when I was throwing against her."
Best moment as an athlete: Going to the Women's College World Series her sophomore year in college
Early sign of greatness: She made the varsity softball team as a freshman at Papillion-La Vista. "That's when I realized it was a sport I would continue in."
Keaton was No. 84 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »