Former USF softball pitcher Lindsey Richardson had her bags packed for a summer in Alaska when she got a phone call from National Pro Fastpitch’s New York/New Jersey Comets.
“We’re in need of another pitcher,” she recalled them saying. “We’d like to sign you. We’ll send a contract offer through. Look it over and tell us if you think it looks good.”
Instead of flying to the Pacific Northwest with Alaska native, friend, and former USF teammate Ilaura Reeves, Richardson flew to the opposite coast as a professional softball player.
The NPF is the only professional women’s softball league in the U.S., founded in 2004 and made up of four teams. A small fraction of collegiate softball players get the opportunity to play
But USF coach Ken Eriksen said he wasn’t surprised Richardson went pro.
“I was getting calls on two different teams at the time,” he said. “They said ‘If she doesn’t make the national team, we want to sign her.’ I said ‘Ok, I got it. I’m not going to be an agent but we’ll get that information to her,’ and things worked out.”
Shortly after, Richardson met new teammates at Tampa International Airport when the Comets came to play USSSA Pride in Orlando.
With a handshake and a laugh, the first person to greet her was former Hofstra pitcher Olivia Galati, who USF eliminated in 2011 Super Regionals to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
Galati pitched all three games of the matchup while Richardson and USF senior Sara Nevins shared pitching duties for the Bulls. Once fierce competitors, Richardson and Galati became good friends and roommates in New Jersey.
They joked about the third game being so close it could’ve gone either way.
“The three games against Hofstra were some of the toughest, most physically and mentally draining games in our careers,” Richardson said. “We spent hours on that field in extra innings trying to get to the World Series. It was weird. By hearing each others’ names and watching each other throw, we thought we knew each other, but we really didn’t.”
The 2011 season, Richardson’s junior year, was the most fun because of the team’s success, she said.
But her senior season set statistical highs for the right-hander, when she was third nationally in ERA at 1.09. But the NPF was a whole new ballgame where the legends of softball are still playing, she said.
“I’m like ‘Who do I think I am, thinking I can throw against them? I should just go sit down,’” she said. “It took a lot of getting used to. In the beginning, I was just staring at them, like, ‘I’m playing with her?’”
As a Comet, she had an up-and-down season statistically, but a win against the Chicago Bandits on Aug. 3 read like a vintage Richardson USF performance — seven innings, five strikeouts, no walks, five hits and two runs given up.
Richardson said it was big for her confidence, as she gave it her all and felt ‘on’ that day.
“Seven innings later, we won the game,” she said. “I didn’t know that was going to happen. I didn’t expect to get a win my rookie season because of the (talented) teams we were playing. It was unreal, especially since Monica Abbott closed that game (for Chicago). She was my idol growing up.”
Richardson said it took a while to feel comfortable attacking hitters because of their resumes.
She was timid at first but realized they have a bat and helmet, just like everyone else. Once she understood that, she competed every time, even against the legends.
“When Natasha Watley grounded out to me — she’s like the world’s fastest softball player — it was the coolest feeling,” Richardson said. “She has her own softball apparel line and gold medals.”
Eriksen has said Richardson is one of the most underrated pitchers to come out of Florida. It’s been a long and winding road from her freshman and sophomore years, where Richardson said she was just a kid thinking of how fun it is to play in college.
Her final two years took a more serious tone as she became nationally known in the softball community.
A call from the Comets wasn’t the first time her plans were altered over the summer.
Richardson was still coping with a loss to the Florida Gators in NCAA Regionals when she heard from USA Softball.12