By Mallorie Ann Ingram
Lauren was the first overall draft pick in the 2015 NPF College Draft out of the University of Oklahoma by the USSSA Pride. Chamberlain is the reigning NCAA homerun record holder with 95 career blasts and was a member of the 2013 WCWS Championship team with the Sooners. Lauren is a four-time All American and one of the largest names and personalities in the softball world with nearly 100k followers on Instagram and 56k on Twitter. In her first at-bat of the 2018 season, she blasted a two-run homerun to help lead the Pride to their Opening Game victory.
Alex enters her second season with the USSSA Pride after being drafted 10th overall out of Florida State University in the 2017 NPF College Draft. Powers is a two-time All American and was named 2016 ACC Player of the Year when she hit .396 and crushed 16 homeruns. In her senior campaign, she was named the 2017 Senior CLASS Award winner for her outstanding performance in the classroom, community and on the field. In the first games of the 2018 season, she has reached base in over half of her plate appearances posting a .571 OBP.
Bell enters her second season with the USSSA Pride. She was drafted 36th overall in the 2016 NPF College Draft by the Pennsylvania Rebellion but opted to remain with the USA National Team for the summer. The Louisiana State University grad was a two-time All American infielder who blasted 58 career homeruns. In the first games of the 2018 season, Bell is already showing her power with a .542 SLG % earning her first professional career homerun.
For those driving down Stadium Parkway in Viera, it’s hard to miss the enormous stadium structure and its recent development activity. What most Brevard County residents and those visiting the area don’t know is the story behind it all. Not only is this the home of USSSA (United States Speciality Sports Association), but also a place where strong women are thriving and making an impact on others in the community.
“These women are not only strong athletes who are successful on the field, but they are strong women who are passionate about the growth of the sport and the empowerment of girls and women off the field,” says USSSA Vice President of Marketing Jami Lobpries.
This diverse group of women comes from various backgrounds and positions, each bringing a set of experiences like no other to the team. Lobpries describes it as a “common bond” among the group: a love for the game with a mindset of future success.
“I think this is a critical time in society for female empowerment and these athletes are living examples of strong women and visual proof of what strong women look like,” Lobpries says. “They’re great role models for all young girls.”
Take Lauren Chamberlain. Not only is she college softball’s all-time home-run leader; she has built a steady brand for herself as a savvy business woman by starting a scholarship fund in Oklahoma. “She’s legitimately strong,” Lobpries says. “She is very passionate about telling girls to be themselves.”
Then there’s Sierra Romero, an extremely talented softball player holding almost every offensive record at Michigan. “Sierra exudes confidence. It’s her whole brand and persona — the way she plays the game, portrays herself on social media, and speaks about women in sport,” Lobpries says.
The newest member of the Pride is Chip Bennett, a powerful player that young girls aspire to become. “Chip dives for catches, leaves the field dirty, and plays the game hard,” Lobpries says.
The team’s home-run hitter, known for her offensive super-power, is Bianka Bell. “She’s another player who gives back off the field — she coached her former high school team this past year,” Lobpries says.
One of the area’s locals, Eau Gallie High School graduate Alex Powers, is not only a naturally strong athlete but an influential one. “Alex endured several injuries, but battled back and was named ACC Player of the Year in her career,” Lobpries says. Powers was recently inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame and works full time with USSSA. Not only is she passionate about giving back, but she also enjoys helping young athletes at camps during the offseason.
With this healthy mix of talent, passion and amazing leadership, it’s no wonder these women exude confidence and bubble over with empowerment. Thanks to USSSA’s role in paving the way for these women to pursue a professional career in softball, the players are able to make a difference and shine.
“We want to immerse these women into the community and be role models for girls and women,” Lobpries says. “These players are accessible and want to serve others.”
But that’s not the only influential element making an impact in town. What does this mean to Brevard County? For starters, USSSA plays a major role in tourism to the benefit of the county’s overall economic impact. Lobpries puts it quite simply:
“The Pride specifically brings a professional team to Brevard, which means so many things for the community — it’s a team to root for, it’s players to connect with, it’s a platform for family outings or business gatherings, and it’s a source of entertainment for the local community and for tourism.” ◆
The 2018 WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup is coming to Viera August 22-31, 2018.
The 10-day event will feature 12 countries competing for a World Cup Title at the USSSA Space Coast Complex. Qualified countries include USA, Canada, Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, and Australia.