By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– Before June 3, most of the sports world had never heard of Odicci Alexander. Despite having an impressive softball career at James Madison University, she was still relatively unknown beyond the borders of Virginia.
But that all changed on the first day of the Women’s College World Series when Alexander shut down the most prolific offense in recent memory to lead JMU to an upset over No. 1 Oklahoma. Since then she had been the face and the story of the WCWS and has taken the nation by storm.
“Just wow. We didn’t know a lot about JMU. We haven’t ever played them, not that I can remember in my years here at OU. What a competitor,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “She made us better. She made us work. She is outstanding. They made us better, and more than anything, I think they’ve brought a lot of fans into the fold of college softball. They were fun to root for, they were fun to watch. Odicci is an incredible pitcher, but just an incredible athlete.”
The Dukes’ run came to an end Monday when Alexander had to face the Sooners for a third time in five days. Oklahoma bats woke up late and ambushed Alexander (18-3) on their way to a 7-1 victory.
JMU coach Loren LaPorte came out of the dugout to pull an emotional Alexander from the game.
“I’m not going to lie, I was trying to keep it together. We were talking as a staff, Do we leave her in? is she out of the gas? It’s one of those things that’s a hard decision to make in that kind of situation,” LaPorte said. “But after talking and kind of getting a feel from her, I think she gave us everything that she had, and I think her teammates did, too.”
As Alexander, a redshirt senior, left the field, she was greeted with a standing ovation from the 12,000 fans on hand.
“It was amazing. I mean, it’s more than just a game,” Alexander said. “To see them all clapping for me and cheering me on, I mean, it was a great moment, and it warmed my heart.”
It wasn’t just the fans at USA Hall of Fame Stadium who showed their appreciation for the performance Alexander had put on during the tournament. Even her opponents gave her the ultimate signs of respect.
“Game recognizes game, and she is a baller,” OU pitcher Giselle Juarez said of Alexander. “I have mad respect for her, and she gave everything she had and I think it’s really awesome that they did give her that standing ovation. She earned it. She deserves it. She’s worked hard, and I think she’s a competitor, and she did great this year.”
Outside of winning the game and moving on to the championship series, LaPorte said it was a great way to end Alexander’s season.
“It was one of those things when she came out, it was a perfect moment for everybody just to give her a standing ovation and just cheer for her,” LaPorte said. “it couldn’t have been a better moment, even though a lot of runs were scored. Just so happy what she was able to do for this team.”
What Alexander did was not just put James Madison softball on the map, but also the Colonial Athletic Conference and inspire others. It’s something she could have never imagined doing growing up watching the game as young girl with dreams in Boydton, Va.
“Honestly, my nine-year-old self, I never would have thought I would have been here because I was on my couch watching this at this age,” Alexander said. “I mean, just being here, I honestly have no words. But to people who are watching, I hope I inspired you to be yourself and be the best version of yourself.”
Photo provided by James Madison University
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