The Tennessee Diamonds brought out the bling last Wednesday.
Blount County’s new professional fast-pitch softball team showcased pitcher Cat Osterman and pitcher/first baseman Megan Gibson during an introductory press conference at the Courtyard Marriott in Alcoa.
Two of the sport’s biggest names, Gibson and Osterman will serve as the headliners when the National Pro Fastpitch franchise hosts the Akron Racers in the season opener at Alcoa High School on June 9. The following three months will see the Diamonds welcome of the game’s greats to town, none of them, though, arriving with more star power than the power-pitching Osterman and the long-ball hitting Gibson.
It was quite the coup for the Diamonds to sign both to a contract in the team’s inaugural season, general manager Sarah Fekete said.
“We’re running full speed ahead right now,” she said.
There may be no bigger name in the sport than the left-handed Osterman. After finishing high school in Cypress Springs, Texas, in 2001, the Gatorade National Player of the Year was extended an invitation to join the U.S. national team.
Osterman, 6-foot-2, had pitched against Team USA with her club team as a high school junior, shutting out the Olympians over five innings, striking out 11 and surrendering only a single hit. The national prevailed, 1-0, in extra innings.
Osterman then helped Team USA to the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, returning with the national team to collect the silver at the ‘08 Games in Sydney.
At the University of Texas, Osterman set the NCAA record for career strikeouts in four seasons in Austin, a mark later surpassed by former Tennessee Lady Monica Abbott. With the NPF’s Rockford franchise last season, the much-decorated Osterman compiled a 0.42 earned run average and 11-1 record in pitching the Thunder to the title. Rockford folded at season’s end, a move that enabled the Diamonds to absorb much of the Thunder’s championship lineup.
ESPN Rise recently voted the Texas tornado its national, softball player of the decade.
“I’m excited to be moving to Tennessee with the rest of our roster,” Osterman said.
“She has probably set the record for softball,” Fekete said. “Period.”
An All-American center fielder at Tennessee, Fekete said batting against Osterman is a memorable experience.
“Speaking as someone that has hit off her before,” she said, “she has tremendous movement.”
Where Osterman has proven a genuine ace at getting them out, fewer are better than Gibson at hitting them out.
Gibson clouted a Big 12 Conference-record 56 home runs in four seasons at Texas A&M, pitching the Aggies to the championship game of the 2008 Women’s College World Series her senior season. By the close of career in College Station, Gibson had scuttled a host of A&M records, including those for runs batted in (183), doubles (48), home runs (56), total bases (447), slugging percentage (.717) and walks (172).
The three-time All-American was taken No. 2 overall by the Philadelphia Force in the 2008 NPF Draft.
“We stole her away to come up here and play for Tennessee,” Fekete said.