Andi Williamson has played softball in many places.
She has played professionally in Japan over the last few years.
And now you can add Italy to that list.
Williamson, a Harts native and former Chapmanville Regional High School softball player, is currently touring Italy with the USSSA Florida Pride team as the National Professional Fastpitch squad is playing a series of games against the Italian National Team.
The Pride won Game 1 in the exhibition series on Monday in Montegranaro, Italy, with a 4-1 victory over the Italians. The Pride had to rally to win, scoring four runs in the top of the seventh inning with two outs and then holding off the Italians in the last half of the frame for the win.
The Pride arrived in Rome on Sunday.
In addition to the four-game series the team will also be conducting some softball coaching clinics and are hoping to strengthen its international ties.
Last August, six Pride players went overseas to share their softball knowledge with young Italian softball players around Milan during three-day instructional clinics. The Pride players visited three separate professional Italian softball venues and focused on basic fundamentals while also getting a taste for Italian culture.
The Pride will also play games in Parma, Verona and Milan. The team still does not have an official mentor but Megan Willis has taken on the role of head coach.
“I think this trip to Italy is going to be amazing for everyone involved. The softball games are expected to be hard fought contests, and the coaches’ clinics should be amazing with an overwhelming amount of information,” Willis said.
The Pride’s last game with the Italian National Team is set for Thursday.
The tour of Italy is not only an exciting experience for the Pride players. It will also help them get acclimated with international play in preparation for this summer’s World Cup.
Eager to play against the best, the International Softball Federation has made the decision to pause their season so that their national team players can compete in this exhibition series.
Softball is also hoping to make a comeback at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan after not being held in 2012 in London or this summer in Rio.
When the Pride players come home from Italy the NPF season is set to begin in June. The Pride is following the trend many professional sports leagues have executed such as the MLB in Australia and the NFL in London.
“It’s my hope that bringing the Pride to Italy will not only showcase our team’s talent but also introduce the NPF,” Willis said. “One reason baseball has been able to grow as a sport in Europe is with the help of MLB players. Being able to have that title and educate young athletes as well as coaches is huge.”
The Pride, located in the Orlando, Fla., metro area, is slated to begin the 2016 season with a four-game series on the road against the expansion Scrap Yard Dawgs on June 10.
The Scrap Yard Dawgs, located in the Houston, Texas area, are the sixth NPF team and an expansion squad. Other than the Pride the other NPF teams are the Akron Racers, the Dallas Charge, the Pennsylvania Rebellion and the Chicago Bandits.
The Pride, the NPF champions in 2013 and 2014, were beaten out for the league championship last year by the Bandits, Williamson’s former team.
Williamson played for the Bandits in 2013 after finishing out her stellar career at Marshall University. The Pride beat the Bandits for the NPF crown that year.
The Pride also won the league title in 2010.
In 2013 with Chicago, Williamson went 9-2 on the hill and posted the third best ERA in the league her rookie season. She started 13 games for the Bandits in and struck out 50 hitters in 75.1 innings pitched. She was named to All-NPF Team.
During the 2014 season with the Bandits Williamson totaled 24 strikeouts in 49.1 innings pitched and posted a 3-3 record with a 2.83 ERA.
That year, Williamson came to Florida during the off-season when she was traded for Alexa Peterson and the 25th overall pick in the NPF College Draft.
Last year with the Pride, she also saw some pitching action, mostly in relief.
“If you have a dream, never give up on it no matter what because you will face failure and you will have setbacks but when that happens remember why you started and all the progress you’ve already made to get closer to making your dream a reality,” Williamson said, while making an appearance back in March at her old school in Harts to celebrate National Reading Month. “I hope to not only make a difference in these children’s lives but to also talk about USSSA and the NPF to make people aware of our sport.”