What sports fan doesn't like a good Cinderella story, especially when it's one like what Odicci Alexander from James Madison experienced.
Alexander made quite a splash at the 2021 Women's College World Series when she led James Madison University to the semifinals. The Boydton, Virginia, native shocked the nation when she helped the Dukes upset eventual WCWS champion Oklahoma 4-3 in eight innings, striking out nine Sooners.
This week, Alexander accomplished another feat by capturing the Athletes Unlimited softball championship. She led the 60-player field with 1,994 points, edging pitcher Alyssa Denham in the final AU standings by just 14 points. It's the closest finish in the league's four-year history.
Players in Athletes Unlimited earn points based on an individual scoring system. Pitchers receive +4 points for every out and -10 for each earned run allowed. Each player's points determine their ranking, which is used each week for the AU draft.
This year's individual winner was determined by a 30-game season held at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois.
"I can't begin to describe what this means to me," Alexander told The Associated Press. "This is the best I have felt mentally. There are so many unbelievable athletes out here, and it's hard to believe I am at the top of the leaderboard. I am honestly so blessed to be out here as one of the 60 players on this field."
One of Alexander's softball heroes has been Cat Osterman, who won the first Athletes Unlimited softball championship. The two got the chance to play in the league together in 2021 before Osterman announced her retirement following that season, so it's only fitting that Alexander's name is now alongside that of her idol. Osterman dominated college softball, winning three USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year awards during her career at the University of Texas. She continued that domination for Women's Pro Fastpitch, Athletes Unlimited and the U.S. Olympic Team, where she tossed 14.2 scoreless innings. She started the gold medal game against Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, throwing five scoreless innings in a 2-0 loss.
Along with Osterman, Alexander joins Aleshia Ocasio and Dejah Mulipola as Athletes Unlimited champions. Ocasio finished 16th this season, while Mulipola finished 33rd.
Alexander tied for third in the league with a 2.15 ERA over 13 appearances that included five starts. In 42.1 innings, she had 42 strikeouts to finish third in that category.
Alexander's incredible run at the 2021 WCWS also included a victory over No. 5 seed Oklahoma State. Her performance in the circle during that game was overshadowed by a diving tag she made at home plate on an OSU squeeze attempt with runners on second and third, a play that put the Dukes one out away from becoming the first unseeded team to advance to the WCWS semifinals. Alexander induced a pop-up for the final out and another unbelievable win.
Although the Sooners got revenge with a 7-1 victory to send the Dukes home in the semis, Alexander was the biggest reason ESPN saw a 10% increase in TV ratings over the 2019 WCWS. Within a week, she gained 50,000 followers on Instagram, further cementing her place in softball lore.
During the 2021 season at JMU, Alexander posted an 18-3 record with 204 strikeouts in 143.2 innings. She went 8-3 in the postseason with one save and 94 K's in 76.2 innings.
While she doesn't have a WCWS title, Alexander's incredible performance will be talked about in softball circles for years. Now, she can at least put an Athletes Unlimited championship in her trophy case.
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