Andi returns from Japan, gets first Bandits’ start

By Paul Adkins padkins@civitasmedia.com

June 20, 2014

Andi Williamson has returned from Japan and is back with the Chicago Bandits.

Williamson, a Harts native and Chapmanville Regional High School graduate, made her first start on Monday with the Bandits, one of four teams in the women’s National Professional Fastpitch softball league.

It’s her second season with Chicago.

In Monday’s game, Williamson had a no-decision as she pitched 5.2 innings and had two strikeouts in the Bandits’ 8-4 loss in extra innings to the defending league champion USSSA Florida Pride. The Pride ended up plating four runs in the top of the ninth inning to bust the game wide open.

Williamson, the reigning NPF Rookie of the Year and also a former Marshall University pitcher, gave up eight hits and four runs (three earned).

The Bandits blew a three-run lead in the sixth, allowing the Pride to score three straight runs to tie the game at four and force extra innings at the Ballpark at Rosemont.

Williamson was replaced within the circle by Estela Pinon, who gave up four runs in the ninth, suffering the loss, before Michelle Gascoigne came on in relief in the ninth as the Pride completed the victory.

The game was played before 1,509 fans at the Bandits’ home, the Ballpark at Rosemont in the Chicago suburb.

The Bandits, last year’s league runner-up to the Pride, have started out the 2014 season slowly with a 7-6 record.

Chicago lost 2-1 on Wednesday night on the road to the Pennsylvania Rebellion in Washington, Pa. The Rebellion replace the New York/New Jersey Comets this season. The other returning team is the Akron Racers.

The Bandits were scheduled to play the Rebellion again on Thursday evening.

Williamson recently wrapped up the winter/spring season in the Japanese women’s pro softball league where she pitched for Team Toda, a squad located near Tokyo.

Williamson was joined in the Japanese league by a handful of American women. Ironically, two of her teammates at Chicago — former U.S. Olympican and pitcher Monica Abbott and Megan Wiggins —played for rival teams in the Japan pro league.

After the Chicago Bandits’ season is over, Williamson is set to go back to Japan in late August to rejoin her Team Toda teammates for another season of softball.

After leading Harts High School to a Class A state runner-up finish in 2006, Williamson went to Chapmanville Regional in 2007 when HHS closed its doors. She led the Lady Tigers to Class AA state titles in 2007 and 2009.

She initially went to the University of Tennessee to play softball but it didn’t work out as Williamson only got to pitch a handful of innings for the Lady Vols. Williamson transferred to Marshall and pitched for the Herd for three seasons, breaking many school records and leading MU to the 2013 Conference USA championship and the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Last summer, Williamson pitched well in her rookie season of pro ball with the Chicago Bandits.

The Bandits won the 2013 NPF regular season championship with a 36-12 record but lost two games to one to the Pride in the championship series which was broadcast by ESPN2.

“We had a great team,” Williamson said in an earlier interview about last year’s team. “We had a great experience. We made it all the way to the finals but we weren’t able to finish it. This year, that is our goal. Anything less than a league championship will be unsatisfactory for us. Everyone has been working hard and everyone has been using that loss as motivation to work hard and to get to where we need to be this summer.”

Andi Williamson’s father is former Harts and Marshall star basketball player Andy Paul Williamson. The family resides at Harts.

Last year for the Bandits, Williamson had a 9-2 record during the regular season with a 1.67 ERA — one of the best in the league. She was named as the league’s rookie of the year at season’s end.

At Marshall, Williamson was a record-breaking pitcher. She led Conference USA in number of wins in 2011 and set a Marshall record of 33 wins with 364 strikeouts during her senior year. She closed out her three-year career at Marshall with 731 strikeouts and helped lead the Herd into the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

In the NCAAs, Williamson led Marshall to a win over Notre Dame in Lexington, Ky. The Herd lost two heartbreakers to Virginia Tech and Kentucky to get eliminated.

In high school, Williamson took on the West Virginia softball scene by storm in her freshman year as she led Harts High School to the Class A state championship game in a 1-0 loss to Wheeling Central.

After the closure of Harts High School at the end of the 2005-06 school year, she headed to Chapmanville with Lady Lion teammates such as Poppy Ramey, Lauren McCann and others and helped lead CRHS to the 2007 Class AA state championship.

Two years later, Williamson and the Lady Tigers again won the state title.

Over the winter, Williamson signed again with the Chicago Bandits for a second season.

Bandits’ GM Aaron Moore said he was happy to get Andi back with the Bandits.

“The organization is excited to have Andi back for the 2014 season,” Moore said. “She originally came to Rosemont looking to tryout, but we instantly knew she would fit in to our roster after watching her throw a few times. She is one of the fiercest competitors the league has in the circle and I know the team and fans get fired up when she’s pitching. We’re fortunate to have her on our team and we’re looking at her to be a major contributor this season.”

Williamson made 13 starts for the Bandits last summer and had the third-best ERA in the league. In addition, Williamson allowed just 67 hits and 33 runs while striking out 50 batters in 75.1 innings pitched.