Delaware County resident Aleshia Ocasio of Glenolden, PA, was crowned the league champion in the second season of the Athletes Unlimited Softball league on Monday, September 27, in Rosemont, Illinois.
The Athletes Unlimited Softball league began in 2020 to allow several of the best players in the world a chance to compete against each other to earn individual points in statistical categories, such as hits, walks, stolen bases, or recording an out as a pitcher. Players can also lose points for giving up earned runs or for unsuccessful stolen base attempts. The sixty-one athletes in the league are drafted to a new team each week throughout the five-week season and can earn additional points for winning games and innings. At the end of the season, the top four players receive medals. Instead of having a coach or general manager, each team is led by a player who ranked in the top four the previous week who serves as a captain and makes the drafting decisions for the team. The unique scoring system incentivizes athletes not only to score individual points but also to compete as a team to earn points. This year’s pool of athletes featured players from five 2021 Olympic teams and many rookies who had just concluded their collegiate careers at the Women’s College World Series in June.
Ocasio totaled 2096 points in a decisive victory over second place finisher Amanda Chidester, who scored 1714 points. Ocasio’s unmatched performance as a right-handed pitcher throughout the entire season paved the way for her to be the deserving champion. She posted a 6-5 record as a pitcher and led the league in wins and innings pitched with 66.0. Ocasio also totaled more MVP, win, and stat points than any other player in the league. Aside from being one of the most successful pitchers in the league with a 2.32 ERA, Ocasio is one of only a few two-way players who can hit in addition to pitching. Ocasio also batted .233 with seven hits, a triple, and a stolen base this season. Her ability to pitch, hit, and play other defensive positions allowed her to tally points in many different categories. Ocasio also served as a captain throughout the last three weeks of the season and drafted successful teams that were able to secure a number of wins. The league title is another accolade in Ocasio’s phenomenal career.
Ocasio graduated from the University of Florida in 2018 where she won a national championship in 2015 and earned All-American honors twice. Ocasio has since both played professionally and ranked eleventh on the leaderboard in last year’s Athletes Unlimited Softball season. On Monday night, Ocasio started in the circle against the previous champion Cat Osterman. Osterman pitched her team to a 3-1 victory over Team Ocasio, but despite the loss, Ocasio still remained decisively at the top of the leaderboard after the game.
Monday night was also the last time that Cat Osterman, a three-time U.S. Olympic medalist, took the circle as a professional softball player. Osterman, a left-handed pitcher who came out of retirement in 2018 to compete at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, has been a dominant pitcher in her collegiate, international, and professional career over the past two decades. Though she finished just off the podium this year in fifth place with 1586 points and a 1.75 ERA, Osterman posted several stellar pitching performances. She went 4-4 in the circle in 60.0 innings, threw the league’s first no-hitter, and pitched a 1-hitter win in the final game of her career over the champion Aleshia Ocasio’s team. At the age of thirty-eight, Osterman leaves the sport as one of the most decorated softball players of all time.
Rounding out the podium following Ocasio were infielder Amanda Chidester, infielder Kelsey Stewart, and pitcher Carrie Eberle. In addition to finishing in second place, Chidester led the league in several offensive categories including batting average (.413), hits (nineteen), and home runs (seven). Stewart also had a tremendous offensive season with a .375 average, eighteen hits, and five doubles. Both Chidester and Stewart were members of the U.S. women’s national team that won an Olympic silver medal in Tokyo, only a few weeks prior to the start of the league. In fourth place was the rookie Carrie Eberle who also won rookie of the year honors. Eberle threw 51.0 innings while posting a 3.16 ERA and a 3-2 record.
For the past two seasons, Athletes Unlimited has given players the opportunity to continue to play softball competitively at the highest level when there are so few opportunities to do so in the U.S. since the suspension of the National Pro Fastpitch League. In her address to her fellow players as she was crowned the champion, Ocasio remarked that she hopes to play for a long time. In the future, Athletes Unlimited will certainly display many more impressive pitching and offensive performances.