FEATURE: Olivia Pichardo Brings Division 1 Experience Into Second Year With Women's National Team

MESA, Ariz. - When Olivia Pichardo made her grand return to the USA Baseball Women's National Team Training Camp this week, she did so under quite the different set of circumstances than her first appearance at the event a year ago.

Around this time in 2022, Pichardo found herself wading into somewhat unfamiliar waters. The Queens, New York native was no stranger to playing in big settings, being a fixture on both her high school varsity team and events such as the Trailblazer Series and the MLB GRIT, but in trying to secure a spot on the Women's National Team, she was attempting to do something she had never gotten the chance to before.

Despite this inexperience, Pichardo earned her way into the coveted Team USA uniform for the first time at just 18 years old. Her debut came in the national team's 3-2 friendship series victory against Canada, where she recorded a .764 OPS in the box and three scoreless innings on the mound across the five games. Beyond just her performance between the lines, though, this marked Pichardo's first taste of the international stage, and it is an opportunity that she holds in very high regard to this day.

"The team last year, it was one of the most fun experiences of my life," Pichardo said. "On the field, we had great chemistry, and it was even better off the field. We had the best memories almost killing each other card games and things like that. It's definitely something that I'll remember forever, and I hope I can keep doing it for many years to come."

Once her time with the Women's National Team came to a close, Pichardo continued her upwards trajectory into heights never before explored. Upon starting her freshman year at Brown University, she decided to try out for the school's team, and after thoroughly impressing the program's coaches, she made history by becoming the first woman to ever crack a Division I baseball roster.

As is customary with most walk-ons, Pichardo didn't see much of the field during her first season at Brown, appearing in just a lone game in Mid-March. In her eyes, though, the time she spent working with the team throughout the year helped prepare her for the upcoming international slate in a significant way.

"I feel like I can give more wisdom to the younger players, because I've gone through a lot more experiences than they have and I can apply what I've learned at Brown," Pichardo said. "I didn't get much college game time, but I feel like I'm able to apply what I learned at practice in college to summer ball and these events. I feel like I'm definitely showing my progression, and I'm getting stronger every time I come here."

All of this leads into this week, with Pichardo returning to the Women's National Team with more seasoning than even her older counterparts, a far cry from the player who came to the same event for the first time just a year prior. Amidst the whirlwind last 12 months, the young pitcher and outfielder cherishes the chance to reconvene with familiar faces and come back to the place where she really kickstarted her meteoric ascent in the baseball world.

"I always love getting to see everybody again," Pichardo said. "We only get to see each other maybe once or twice a year since we live all across the country, and we all come back even better. I really love playing with everyone and tracking everyone's progress throughout the year. It's really nice to see, and I'm also seeing the younger generation of girls coming up too, seeing what they have to bring and what the future holds."

Even with all these experiences, though, one thing Pichardo has yet to do is compete in a WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup, an opportunity that will come for her next month in when the team travels to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada to compete in the event for the first time since 2018. When asked what she expects to see in her first time at an international tournament, Pichardo gave an answer brimming with confidence.

"I'm super excited, and I'm expecting to destroy every team," Pichardo said with a smile. "I don't see how we lose with the amount of talent we have on the team.