If they stole your heart, you weren’t alone.
If Odicci Alexander became your favorite softball player to ever grace a diamond, join an ever-expanding club.
If you sat on the edge of your seat when you watched the James Madison softball team’s exhilarating run to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series, you’re in good company.
But, sadly, that run came to an end Monday when the Dukes, who raised eyebrows after beating No. 1 Oklahoma in the tournament opener, fell to those same Sooners in the semifinals. Along the way, James Madison made plenty of new fans who ranged from NFL stars, to TV personalities and even Billie Jean King, the legendary women’s tennis player who didn’t knock down barriers, but destroyed them.
Truth is, here in the Valley, women’s sports is an integral thread in our lifestyle quilt. We’ve had enough local high school girls basketball and softball teams bring home state titles to tear down the notion that women and girls playing sports doesn’t matter.
It matters here, that’s for sure. Pick a local high school on any day during the spring, and you’ll see quality softball. Head over to Page County, where the Dukes’ home-run hitting machine Kate Gordon went to high school, and you’ll see an undefeated team this year with a future James Madison pitcher in the circle.
And if anybody has any notion that college softball doesn’t matter, all James Madison did was knock that notion down as well.
We don’t have to wonder how many high school and Little League softball players watched with awe as a team they know, with some players they might know as well, stole the hearts of the sports world over the course of the last week. We know there were plenty.
We also know it gives those athletes something to dream about.
Who wants to be the next Gordon?
Who wants to steal the spotlight like Alexander?
Alexander said it best after all the national love she got: “Just to leave your legacy on your university, I have no words for that.”
Countless softball players in the Valley may very well have, at least, two words for Alexander and all the Dukes.