OKLAHOMA Metropolis — The purple-clad James Madison enthusiasts in the group begun to fidget following Oklahoma State place runners on second and 3rd with just one out in the prime of the seventh inning, with the Dukes holding what felt like a precarious just one-run lead.
They altered their hats, or seemed down at their ft. James Madison athletic director Jeff Bourne set his hands behind his head and exhaled seriously. The Dukes’ operate by way of the Women’s University World Series felt improbable but also someway destined — a Cinderella workforce to the nation, but 1 these in Harrisonburg, Virginia, realized was constructed for this actual minute.
Since James Madison had the quintessential softball celebrity in Odicci Alexander, whose passion, heart, wish, function ethic and just about unhittable increase ball were being all performing for the Dukes. They observed her expansion more than the previous 5 years. They understood what she could do. The rest of the nation is just now clueing in.
When she faltered late versus the Cowgirls, there was only 1 choice offered: whatsoever it will take. So with one out and two runners in scoring placement, she threw her pitch. Chelsea Alexander bunted the ball proper back to her. The squeeze was on. Scotland David arrived jogging for household. In that moment, Odicci Alexander had a alternative: Make the perform herself at the plate, or toss the ball to catcher Lauren Bernett.
Alexander identified she didn’t have time to flip it to Bernett. So she lunged forward, and dove at David.
Whatever it usually takes.
“If that’s not Best 10 SportsCenter, I will not know what is, simply because which is possibly the most effective enjoy I’ve ever noticed in a occupation by a pitcher in that circumstance with that much tension,” James Madison coach Loren LaPorte claimed.
The job was not performed. Alexander stayed down for a number of minutes and her teammates circled all over her, but she acquired up and went back into the circle to facial area the very same condition once again, but with two outs.
“That was battle,” Alexander said right after the recreation. “I just obtained that huge out. I wasn’t allowing up then. I was just completely ready to get the third a single and be done and just get the ballgame.”
An -2 giving to leadoff hitter Kiley Naomi was popped up into shallow left, and Sara Jubas recorded the final out. As the James Madison players celebrated their historic acquire on the area and their largest fans jubilantly hugged and whooped in the stands, Bourne high-fived everybody about him.
“Oh male,” he stated, “how magnificent is that!”
With the 2-1 get more than Oklahoma State on Friday night, James Madison grew to become the initially unranked crew in WCWS history to progress to the semifinals. If the Dukes’ opening acquire against all round No. 1 seed Oklahoma surprised the school softball entire world, the get above the Cowgirls felt a tiny a lot more like them proving they belong particularly the place they are: in the winners bracket, 1 earn absent from the championship sequence.
“When they went to the CAA championship this yr, you could see each and every match they obtained far better,” an exhilarated Bourne reported. “They crafted a perception of household and synergy. So I figured we had been on our route. Now, I am going to be sincere, I failed to believe we could get by as considerably as we have, specified all the teams that we’re struggling with, but they maintain getting better, and they proceed to struggle. And you have to adore their spirit. It really is infectious. It seriously is.”
The spirit commences with Alexander, who grew up in a two-halt sign city in Palmer Springs, Virginia, with her grandparents, WD and Emily. The Alexander household has lived in that city for so extended, there is a avenue named just after them — Alexander Ferry Street. WD, a Vietnam War veteran, assisted tutorial Alexander through her youth and assisted foster her enjoy for softball. That is all she ever preferred to do.
Simply because WD and Emily could not travel from Virginia to attend the WCWS, the extended Alexander household in Dallas and Kansas Town made a decision to arrive in their place. WD’s brothers, Cliff and Robert, attended both games, as did seven other spouse and children users. “I am just so happy, I could cry,” Cliff Alexander reported.
Everybody beamed retelling stories about Alexander and the journey that brought her to James Madison.
“She always kept a glove and a ball and desired to participate in catch all the time,” her terrific-uncle Robert Alexander recalled. “So I understood she was likely to do something in this match. A person time I went more than her dwelling, and she’s about 9 yrs previous. And I would always obstacle her. And she struck me out. I couldn’t believe that. I was ashamed. I went again the next day, she did it again. She reported you should not you attempt me no far more. I explained, ‘I will never.'”
The family laughed. But getting to James Madison was no absolutely sure point, either. Alexander was ignored for a lot of her superior college vocation, right up until former coach Mickey Dean noticed her though recruiting someone else. What designed Alexander so distinctive was not just her skill to pitch, but also her capability to strike.
Alexander won meeting Pitcher of the Year honors right after a further stellar time. Her history now stands at 18-1, with a 1.22 Period, 197 strikeouts and 15 comprehensive video games, like her previous a few — the super regional clincher towards Missouri, and each WCWS games.
She is no slouch at the plate, both, hitting .329 with 25 hits and 12 RBIs. In opposition to Oklahoma Condition, she bought the scoring likely in the very first inning, when she raced residence all the way from next and scored on a throwing error.
“A person time I went above her house, and she’s about 9 decades aged. And I would often problem her. And she struck me out. I could not consider that. I was ashamed. I went again the upcoming working day, she did it once more. She reported do not you try out me no extra. I claimed, ‘I will never.'”
Robert Alexander, Odicci Alexander’s great uncle
The Dukes landed an all-about softball player when they signed Alexander, but more than that, her demeanor has served define this staff and this plan.
James Madison was not particularly favored to get in this article. The Dukes had been sent on the road for both the regional and super regional rounds. Riding a 28-game successful streak against Missouri, James Madison missing the 2nd match of the sequence soon after Alexander permitted a year-high 6 operates in her only loss of the period.
But the clinching 7-2 gain proved her mettle, as she turned close to and threw a 4-hitter — and went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
It is not as if the attract obtained any less difficult in Oklahoma Town. James Madison faced No. 1 in general seed Oklahoma, which was taking part in just 30 minutes down the road from its campus in Norman. With Oklahoma enthusiasts filling most of the stadium, Alexander went to the circle and calmly delivered an additional stellar efficiency, keeping the greatest offensive group in the place to a season-very low three runs.
“She’s just one of the most outstanding men and women I’ve been around,” Bourne explained. “Obviously, extremely, quite gifted, but chat about building spirit and grit and just people adore to be all around her and they consider in her. And she conveys that feeling of perception by way of every single member of that crew.”
Nevertheless she was not as dominant on Friday as she was in opposition to Oklahoma, she did sufficient to get the task accomplished, backed by some extraordinary defensive performs at the rear of her. James Madison jumped to a rapid 2- guide, and then Oklahoma Point out scored in the fifth — making what happened in the seventh inning even a lot more spectacular.
Alexander’s diving perform at the plate staved off what could have been a disastrous instant for the Dukes. The only reason Oklahoma State experienced two runners on to start out with was simply because of an obstruction simply call as the Dukes experimented with to run down and tag David amongst second and 3rd.
That jam set up the perform of the event to date.
As LaPorte mentioned afterward, “I think we are at the position the place why not? Why not us?”
That is a mantra that applies to Alexander, as well.
“I experience like she represents every very little lady that’s from a tiny town, that if you get the job done tough, and you have a aspiration, you can do it,” explained her cousin, Joyce Holmes. “Do not allow anyone notify you what you can not do. Mainly because now she’s sitting down on ESPN, on the major display screen, staying a position product to persons that glimpse like her.”