MURRIETA – Monday, April 17, was a dream come true for 24 women selected in the inaugural Women’s Professional Fastpitch softball draft including one with local ties.
Autumn Pease, a 2018 graduate of Murrieta Mesa, with collegiate stops at Idaho State and the University of Minnesota, was selected 10th overall (second pick of the second round) by the Texas Smoke, who are making their debut in 2023 with an impressive roster.
“Being drafted is absolutely amazing and is giving me an opportunity that I never thought I was going to have,” Pease said. “I’m kind of starstruck with some of the big names that I will be surrounded by…from owners to players. This is going to be the experience of a lifetime and a great step for women’s sports.”
WPF (Women’s Professional Fastpitch) is the official professional fastpitch league in the United States, founded by USA Softball, USSA and Smash It Sports, with their goal being to showcase the best athletes in softball, provide a world-class experience for fans, and connect young fans to their idols.
“Twenty-four athletes got to watch a professional team write their name down on a card, and hear their name called out on stage,” Commissioner Lauren Chamberlain said in a league release. “As a former draftee (NPF 2015), I know that feeling well, and to be a part of another athlete getting to experience that…I can’t put it into words how special that is.”
In 105 career appearances for Minnesota, Pease has pitched a 2.59 ERA with 509 strikeouts in 475.1 innings. She’s posted a 44-25 record, including 16 wins this season placing her second in the Big Ten conference for victories. So far this season in Minnesota the Golden Gophers are 25-16 and 6-6 in a very competitive Big Ten conference.
As their ace going into this week, Pease is sporting a 17-6 record with 22 starts and 27 total appearances in 142.1 innings of work. She also has thrown three shutouts this season, as well as two the year before, which is when she added a no-hitter to her resume against Nebraska.
With a healthy recovery from bicep surgery two years ago, Pease was fourth in the Big Ten last season for ERA at 1.75 in 116 innings of work, which also placed her 57th nationally. Minnesota was 31-13 overall and 29-11 in the Big Ten, falling in the Los Angeles Super Regional (hosted by UCLA).
Pease was told she might not be able to pitch after her surgery, based on the very little experience they have with underhand throwing athletes, so with that behind her, the rebound has been nothing short of amazing. Her previous stop was at Idaho State in 2019 where as a Bengal she led their staff with a 2.42 ERA, recording 15 starts and 24 appearances with a 10-5 overall record in just under 122 innings of work. The Bengals were 20-27 and 10-7 in Big Sky Conference play during her lone season in Pocatello.
“The southern heat might get to me at first, after my cold years in Minnesota, but I’m super excited to finish my final college season strong, then focus on the next chapter,” Pease said.
While at Murrieta Mesa, Pease was part of their 2017 CIF-SS championship team and finished her career with a 1.76 ERA, 53 wins, and had 539 strikeouts, two of which are records she still holds to this day.
“I have known and coached Autumn since she was 10 years old and from the first time I saw her on a field I knew she was destined to be great,” Murrieta Mesa coach Tony Romero said via text message. “Her work ethic and drive to be the best has gotten her to the next level and beyond. She’s set the standard and paved the way for future Rams.”
The Smoke will open their campaign on June 15 in Texas, to which Pease tweeted, “Yeehaw.”
As of Monday, April 24, after pitching two shutouts over the Iowa Hawkeyes, Pease has also been named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, the conference office announced. Pease made two starts and three appearances against Iowa, not allowing a single run through 16 innings of work. The Murrieta native picked up all three wins, tossing 24 strikeouts and allowing three walks from opposing batters. Autumn now ranks first in the Big Ten in strikeouts (206), second in victories (20), and third in both ERA (1.55) and opposing batting average (.196).
This marks her third weekly honor from the league and second this season, with her first of 2023 coming on March 13 following Minnesota’s undefeated weekend at the Gopher Indoor Classic.
Derryl Trujillo can be reached via email at email@example.com. Article contributions made by Valley News Sports Editor, JP Raineri, who can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.