Former MU softball standout lives her dream
ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Former Marshall University softball standout Andi Williamson is living her dream.
Williamson is in her second season of professional softball as part of the Chicago Bandits with the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
Months after helping the Thundering Herd win the 2013 Conference USA championship, Williamson joined the Bandits and helped them reach the NPF Championship Series en route to being named the NPF Rookie of the Year.
"It's been a great experience so far," she said. "I get to play with some of my idols. I grew up watching Monica Abbott play and always have been a big fan, so it's a dream come true to call her a teammate, friend and mentor."
Last weekend, Williamson and the Bandits (8-8) took part in a four-game series with the USSSA Florida Pride (14-4) at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas, a suburb of Austin.
It was part of a two-week Texas tour for the Pride, which features four former University of Texas players on its roster.
One of those players is another one of Williamson's childhood idols -- Cat Osterman, a UT legend and arguably the biggest name in the sport.
Williamson had the chance to face off against Osterman in the second game of the series Friday in front of an estimated crowd of 1,500.
Osterman and the Pride picked up a 3-0 win over Chicago, but Williamson held her own against the former two-time Olympian in a pitching battle. Williamson pitched three-shutout innings and gave up two runs, including a solo-home run to GiOnna DiSalvatore, in five innings of work.
Williamson suffered her first loss of the season while Osterman had 11 strikeouts and only gave up two hits in a complete-game shutout.
"I knew it was going to be a good game," Williamson said. "I knew I had to hold their hitters down because Cat doesn't give up many runs. I learn a lot from just watching Cat pitch."
The biggest adjustment for the Harts, W.Va., native has been the difference in the competition between the college and professional levels, she said.
"It's so much greater (in NPF), so you can't mess up," Williamson said. "One through nine of any lineup can hit a home run."
First-year Chicago Bandits coach Shane Winkler, a Marshall University assistant from 2005-08, said Williamson is "a bulldog" and continues to handle herself in the professional league.
"She fights and she brings it every time she's in the circle," he said.
"She did that in college and she's doing it here. (Friday) she put us in a position to have a chance. When you're facing Cat, you can only afford to give up one or two runs, if any. She kept us in the ball game; we just needed to give her a little more support offensively."
Regardless of wins or losses, Williamson said she's blessed to have the opportunity to keep playing the sport she loves.
"I just so thankful that I got to play for Marshall, play for my home state and continue to play professionally," she said. "I would never have dreamed I'd be where I am today.
"My main thing is to never give up on your dream. It doesn't matter where you're from or how small your state is, if you work hard and never give up, anything is possible."
Michael Adams, Community Sports Editor of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Austin, Texas, is a Marshall University graduate and former intern at The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at email@example.com.
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