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October 10, 2013

WALLACE STATE SOFTBALL: Persistence, long drive from New York pay off for Lion walk-on Marcella Ossa

HANCEVILLE — As a New York native, Wallace State softball newcomer Marcella Ossa isn’t hesitant to take a risk — even if the gamble means a 14-hour, 900-mile car ride with no guarantees in store.

During the spring, Ossa began searching to rejuvenate her softball career after spending the 2012 season at Buffalo (N.Y) State College, a Division III school.

One late May morning, Ossa logged on to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) website and noticed Wallace State’s 2013 national championship picture as the centerpiece. The Lions had just won their second NJCAA Division I national title in six seasons, finishing with a 55-12 record.

Wallace State’s national championship was more than enough to pique Ossa’s interest.

“For whatever reason, it caught my eye. I looked up the Wallace State website, applied and contacted coach (Jayne) Clem about possibly trying out for the team,” she said. “I also emailed a skills video.”

College coaches in all sports and on all levels receive generic emails and field phone calls from interested prospective athletes who may not have been heavily recruited in high school or at other colleges. Clem initially felt Ossa fell under that category, so communication between the two parties dissolved during the summer.

Despite some initial doubts, Ossa remained persistent in her quest to join the Wallace State softball team. Without a formal invitation, Ossa and her mother made the long trek from New York to Hanceville a week before the fall semester began.

When Ossa arrived on campus, Clem was with her Wallace State colleagues at the Fall Convocation, the employee kickoff to the fall semester.

“Marcella continued to leave messages on my phone and didn’t give up. It’s funny because I couldn’t understand what she was saying in the messages because she was talking so fast with her New York accent,” the coach said. “Out of the blue during Convocation, I get a call from Kori Benson (Wallace State’s third baseman), saying Marcella was on campus and asking for a tryout. Marcella impressed us with her fielding during the initial workout and impressed us with her hitting when we invited her back the next day.”

Ossa ultimately received a walk-on invitation.

“Something kept giving me confidence to pursue the opportunity even though I knew the team was full of scholarship players. I packed my car full of bags, hit the road and crossed my fingers once I got here,” she said. “I wanted to go to a college where I knew I would need to push myself. It was a huge decision to drive down this far, and I was nervous the entire time. Luckily, I had good days during the tryout in order to hang around.”

Ossa, a 5-foot-7 infielder, is hitting .286 in 14 at-bats this fall and fulfilling a utility role in the infield. She is also learning daily about Southern culture, admitting she was surprised just how fanatical people are about college football.

“I’ve also had hush puppies and sweet tea for the first time,” Ossa added. “I’m also blown away at how friendly people are. People are friendly back home, but you have people here who go out of their way to make you feel at home. I felt like I was home right when I got here, and some of my teammates are already my best friends.”

Clem is glad to have Ossa on board.

“It is neat how it’s all worked out. I didn’t really think a whole lot about it when she first contacted me, but she was very impressive during her tryouts,” the longtime Lion coach said. “She fits in great with the girls and is willing to do whatever to  help the team right now.”

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