In limiting Oklahoma to a season-low three runs — after it led the nation with 11.1 runs per game this season — James Madison pitcher Odicci Alexander lived up to every bit of the hype she garnered during a redshirt senior season in which she led the mid-major to its first Women’s College World Series (WCWS) appearance.
The Dukes are now 2-0 in the WCWS after Alexander pitched her team to a second upset Friday night against Oklahoma State, 2-1. She pitched the entire game, giving up only three hits.
The dominant pitching performance in Game 1 on Thursday by Alexander, who limited the Sooners to six hits, shocked the world of college softball as the non-Power 5 program beat a national powerhouse that’s won two of the last four championships (and was runner-up to UCLA in the last championship played in 2019).
Alexander continued her dominance on Friday night over seventh-ranked Oklahoma State in a dramatic win that improved her season record to 18-1. James Madison became the first unseeded team to win two games in the WCWS, a victory that featured this spectacular play by Alexander that kept Oklahoma State from tying the game in its last at-bat.
Alexander, the Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year who opted to come back to James Madison after the coronavirus pandemic cut the 2020 season short, emerged on Thursday as a nationally recognized star by beating top-ranked Oklahoma.
Her credentials entering the tournament were rock solid: 16 wins, a 1.14 ERA and two no-hitters (which included one perfect game). She also struck out 19 batters in an NCAA regional win over Liberty, and has now over the last two weeks recorded wins over Missouri, Tennessee and now Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Here’s five things you should know about Alexander:
Alexander taught herself to pitch by watching Youtube videos
While Alexander started playing softball when she was 7, it took another three years before she got into pitching. “I was the player who always wanted the ball in my hand,” Alexander told D1 Softball. “I wanted control of the game.”
The early lessons for Alexander consisted of throwing a ball against the water well at her grandparents’ home. “I would spray-paint spots on the well and just throw to it,” she said, “and it would bounce back to me.”
As she mastered hitting the spots on the well with velocity, Alexander next learned how to throw a changeup.
“I kind of watched YouTube videos on different grips and stuff,” she said in the D1 Softball interview. “I watched different pitchers pitch from different colleges.”
Alexander was an accidental recruit
When then-James Madison coach Mickey Dean attended a Virginia high school state championship semifinal back in 2014, he had his sights on a pitcher who was throwing on the state’s top-ranked 3A team. As he watched the game, Dean couldn’t take his eyes off of Alexander, who was pitching for the opposing Park View High School team.
“As I watched, I thought to myself, ‘I want her,’ ” Dean, now the softball coach at Auburn, said of Alexander. “She was the best player on the field. Powerful. Determined. Her team really shouldn’t have been competitive with the team they were going against. But she kept them in the game.”
Park View lost that game, but Alexander won a life-altering admirer. By the end of the year, Dean had offered her a scholarship with James Madison.
“By that point, she was only playing local and was under the radar,” Dean said. “A lot of people started to take notice when she played on a travel team the summer of her senior year. We were fortunate to sign her when we did.”
Which is all due to Dean being flexible when he first saw her play.
And that other girl Dean had set out to see?
“She was good, but I did not offer her,” Dean said. “I just liked Odicci. She was powerful and you just knew she was going to be highly motivated.”
Odicci was a three-sport star in high school
Alexander’s high school softball resume is impressive: a first-team all-district infielder as a freshman; second-team all-state as a sophomore, first-team all-district, first team all-conference and district pitcher of the year as a junior; and first team all-district/second team all-conference as a senior.
But Alexander also was an all-conference guard on the Park View basketball team, and made the all-district and all conference teams in volleyball.
“Always one of the best athletes in every sport she played,” said Dean Crutchfield, the Park View softball coach who helped shape her career since she was 7. “In volleyball she was good with kills, and in basketball she handled the ball and was a great shooter. Just good in everything she did.”
Her brother played college basketball at Kansas State, Memphis
Isaiah Maurice, Alexander’s older brother, began his college career at Kansas State during the 2016-17 season before transferring to Memphis where he played for Anfernee Hardaway.
Maurice, a 6-foot-10 forward, started 20 games in his two seasons at Memphis, and had the best game of his career during the 2018-19 season when he scored 21 points in a win over Central Florida. His career averages: 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Alexander has three other siblings: older brother Jameel, and younger sisters Imileigh and Kaylin.
Her grandparents raised her
When Alexander was asked about her grandparents, Washington and Emily Alexander, who raised her and her four siblings, during an interview with ESPN reporter Jalyn Johnson just before the start of the WCWS, she got emotional.
“All the things my grandparents have done for me, it’s like I can’t thank them enough,” Alexander said, fighting back tears. “They’ve been my rock from the beginning. I just thank God for blessing me with such great people in my life.”
Her grandparents, especially her grandfather, were fixtures in the stands for most of Alexander’s games from the time she started playing softball.
“When they came with Odicci for her official visit, they [her grandparents] were just so grateful for everything,” said Dean, the former James Madison coach. “They always held her accountable, which is important because every kid goes through trials and tribulations. [Her grandfather] would always encourage her, telling her to keep her head to the grindstone, and get the things done.”
Crutchfield, who’s known the Alexanders for nearly two decades, agreed.
“We’ve traveled everywhere, from South Carolina to Texas to Louisiana to Georgia for softball games, and Mr. Alexander doesn’t miss a thing,” Crutchfield said. “He’s not able to be there right now, and I can imagine that’s why she got so emotional.”
While he didn’t travel to Oklahoma, Alexander made sure to send her grandfather a social media shout-out.