A Winner For Life

Sports Editor

A four-year starter for the St. Marys softball team, Alyssa Alexander was never be able to taste winning, but still learned valuable life lessons, took her lumps and was rewarded for it all.

The recent graduate finally got a taste of what it feels like to be a winner — something that can now never be taken away from her after years of being denied such a feeling.

As part a member of the Ohio Fury 18U travel softball team, Alexander’s team overcame an 0-4 record to storm past bracket play — upending two teams that defeated Ohio Fury in pool play — and win the North America All Sanctioned World Series on Sunday. And this wasn’t just any tournament her team won, it happened to be the largest travel softball tournament in the state with more than 50 teams jammed into two different tournament brackets.

“Winning the World Series was really overwhelming because we have been in so many championships — three out of the four tournaments that we have played in, we have been in the championship game and this is one that we actually finished,” Alexander said. “So the whole finishing thing is something I can relate to.

“But I was on top of the world — that is for sure — because it was one of the coolest things I have ever been involved in in my whole entire life.”

The World Series took place at Berliner Park in Columbus where 58 18U teams competed in two brackets, gold and platinum. Ohio Fury was in the Gold Bracket. The tournament opens with pool play, which Ohio Fury finished 0-4 in and had to play five games on Sunday as the lowest-seeded team. But Ohio Fury won all five games, beating Pitt Riot 3-2 to win the North America All Sanctioned World Series.

“We actually got destroyed in the first couple of games and then we had two of the teams we played before again in the bracket tournament,” Alexander added. “We had to play one of the teams in the semifinals and we had to play the other team in the championship.

“These girls that I am playing with are basically girls like me who really care about softball and want to be and they want to win too, but mostly, they just want to have fun because they won’t get to do this forever.”

But Sunday’s win can be traced back to that freshman season that saw Alexander thrust into a situation as the lone starting freshman on a team full of upperclassman. During the summer of her freshman year in high school, Alexander joined Ohio Fury as a 14-year-old playing with a team full of college-bound softball players.

“It has definitely made me the player that I am today,” she said. “Being on the St. Marys softball team has taught me a lot about being humble and how important leadership is.”

During her freshman year as a Roughrider, Alexander was on a 4-13 team who did not record a win in Western Buckeye League play. During her sophomore season, Alexander was under the leadership of a new coach — Kendra Solomon — yet endured a 2-17 overall season and 1-8 mark in WBL play. The next year, Alexander was the lone junior on a team with nine seniors, yet had to continue to develop those leadership skills while settling for a 4-16 season. 

In her personal best season, Alexander guided a rebuilding team to its most wins in a season since 2011 at 6-15, winning the most WBL games in a season since 2011. Alexander concluded her career with a .474 batting average, slugging .632 and finished with a .981 field percentage behind home plate. She is also in the record books, hitting the most doubles in a season (nine) since Macy Ferrall (nine) and Erika Thornsberry (15) — both in 2010. She hit a career 21 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 49 RBIs. 

But that winning feeling still eluded her when the Roughriders lost an agonizingly close sectional semifinal game against Wapakoneta 4-3, still, Alexander wouldn’t trade a minute — or more fittingly, an out — for her time in St. Marys.

“From my freshman year, I had to step into a leadership position that I was literally thrown into,” she said. “I had only caught for one year before my freshman year, but from that time, my leadership ability and everything that I do is always at 100%. That is my biggest thing.”

That leadership role she had to forge at a young age has carried over to her travel ball team as well. 

Alexander added that the girls on the 18U team, were all on the 16U team the year before and that she and Celina’s Taylor Turner were the additions to this year’s team — so like she had to as a freshman in St. Marys — Alexander had to get acquainted to a new team full of girls who knew each other.

“That was a little hard because we didn’t have much of a connection until we started playing,” she added. 

What helped was having Solomon on the team. The Roughriders coach is also an assistant coach for Ohio Fury and was the head coach for the team last year. 

“Kendra is my rock, she is there for me in softball and out of softball,” Alexander said. “I have never been more thankful to have a connection with my coach as I am with her. And as much as I hate her sometimes and as much as she hates me sometimes, I would never trade my relationship with her for the world.

“She has taught me a lot about what it means to fun have, but still focus on myself to make sure I am doing everything I can do for the team and putting in my 100% all of the time.”

But before she begins her classes at Kent State where she is studying psychology, Alexander finally got to experience how it feels to be a winner. During her time at St. Marys, Alexander saw limited action playing in other sport such as tennis, basketball and soccer, but softball has been more than just a sport where she played the most, was thrown into the fire as a freshman, took her lumps and endured losing seasons.

It turned into a sport that served as a life lesson for her.

“I think softball has come natural for me, it is something I have done since I was little,” she said. “I know that I can be a good player and I get the most mad during softball because I know that I can do better.

“Softball is a game based on failure and I think that if you can understand that concept, you can learn a lot about life itself and softball has taught me a lot about life. Not everything is going to go your way, but you have to fail in order to get where you want to be.”