Credit: JMU Sports

On July 3, hundreds of people gathered in Palmer Springs, Va. to show love for the softball superstar Odicci Alexander. At 23 years old, the 5-foot-7 Alexander stands as a giant in her hometown, located in Mecklenburg County, which has a population of roughly 400 people. But the community bonds and sense of family transcend its size.

Long before Alexander was a standout pitcher at James Madison University, she was in the backyard of her grandfather’s home pitching from sun up to sun down, peppering a cement wall. As the years went on, that same brick wall still stands but is worn and battered from Alexander’s high-velocity throws. Now, she is a nominee for the ESPN ESPY award as the Best Female College Athlete and a USSSA Pride Professional Pitcher.

She led JMU to the program’s first-ever appearance in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City last month, where they were ultimately defeated by No. 1 ranked Oklahoma, the eventual champion. The Dukes became the only unseeded team in WCWS history to win its first two games, making it to the semifinals primarily riding the laudable talents of Alexander.

The Colonial Athletic Conference Player of the Year had a stellar tournament, going 6-2 with a 2.92 ERA, recording 66 strikeouts and 28 walks in 64.2 innings. “It was a long ride, and just to be here, it was amazing,” said Alexander after JMU was eliminated.

“I couldn’t have done any of this, at all, without my teammates and my coaches, and the support staff, fans, and all. This ride has been long, but I’ve grown so much, just being at this university, and I couldn’t thank everyone [enough] for that.”

While culminating her season and career with a title was a goal Alexander coveted, she spearheaded a 41-4 JMU record by going 18-3 and a stingy 1.71 ERA, earning Softball America’s NCAA Pitcher of the Year. The redshirt senior also batted .317 with two home runs, 12 RBI and 13 runs scored. Alexander, who had 712 collegiate strikeouts, picked up where she left off in her pro debut on June 17, fanning eight batters as USSSA Pride fell to Team Mexico, the Mexican national team, by 7-6.

It is inspiring to know that you can make it from a town with less than 500 people to being watched and admired by millions. Alexander and the JMU softball team have elicited confidence and motivation in boys and girls in her hometown and small towns across the country. Alexander’s example to younger generations isn’t limited to sports. Discipline, dedication, and dreaming big are keys to success no matter what one may pursue.

The definition of an odyssey is a long wandering voyage from one place to another. Like the legend of Odysseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, despite the obstacles he faced on his journeys, he returned home. Alexander and JMU did not travel an easy road. She has gone and will continue to go many places, but will never forget her home of Palmer Springs, and the community that supported her from the beginning.