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Gray, O’Rourke Continue Softball Careers in Sweden
Former UMBC softball players Ashley Gray and Carla O’Rourke spent their summer playing for the Karlslund Eagles in
Örebro is one of the largest cities in the country, located in central
O’Rourke said former UMBC assistant coach Bill Gilbert, who currently works with the Eagles, played a large role in the teammates going to Örebro. Because quality pitching is coveted in
“I’ve always wanted to play in
Sadowl and Nicholson, who both worked with the Retrievers last season, also encouraged the pair to go abroad while they had the chance.
“Stuff like this isn’t really possible once you commit to a job and start a ‘real’ life,” O’Rourke said. “Amy and Lauren sharing their experience sealed the deal. It was great to be able to ask not only things like money and traveling, but also how they felt about being homesick or interacting with European people – stuff you can’t get from a book.”
“Pitching is the crucial difference,” she said.
Most of the players on the Eagles are in their upper 20s and have only started playing softball in the last several years. O’Rourke added that there are no groundskeepers in
“We have to trim tall grass around the field every few weeks so that we can find foul balls,” she said. “It’s amazing all of the things we take for granted after all these years of playing.”
Gray and O’Rourke ranked among the top 10 players in the federation in most offensive categories. Gray batted a league-best .619 with a 1.071 slugging percentage, a .725 on-base percentage and 11 doubles – all tops in the federation, as well – while she ranked second with 32 RBI and sixth with 26 hits. O’Rourke’s .512 average and .731 slugging percentage were second to Gray on the team and sixth in the league, while her .672 on-base percentage was third overall. She also ranked eighth with 21 hits and eight stolen bases.
In the circle, Gray ranked first or second in every category, posting a 1.60 ERA and 82 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .162 batting average. She picked up six wins and pitched seven complete games, including three shutouts.
In addition to playing their natural positions – O’Rourke in the outfield and Gray on the mound or at first base – both have seen playing time at shortstop, and O’Rourke has even caught a few games.
At the end of July, Gray left O’Rourke and the rest of her teammates to pitch for the Swedish National Team at a tournament in Apeldoorn, Holland. She was one of two American pitchers on the national squad, which finished second at the Robur 58.
The Karlslund Eagles are 12-8 on the season and in third place in the federation standings. They played two games before the Retriever duo arrived and will still have some games remaining after they leave.
Gray and O’Rourke are the only two Americans on their team, as each squad is only allowed two foreigners. The language barrier has not proven a problem because most Swedish people also speak English.
“We’re constantly learning new words and phrases,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve even gone so far as to download software and check out library books.”
O’Rourke played in 151 games and batted .240 in four years in a Retriever uniform. Gray transferred to UMBC as a junior and earned all-conference honors in both seasons in black and gold, batting .315 with 18 home runs and 71 RBI in two years.