Barnes: Ila Borders blazed trails with every pitch she threw

From Katie Barnes at espnW on March 31, 2017, with mention of SABR member Jean Hastings Ardell:

Twenty-three years ago, writer Jean Hastings Ardell headed out to Southern California College (now Vanguard University), in Costa Mesa, because she heard a woman was pitching there.

The avid sports fan was researching women in baseball, and the prospect of seeing a female on the mound was enticing.

Ila Borders, the first woman to earn a collegiate baseball scholarship, was the pitcher. In 1997, the left-hander eventually went on to sign with the St. Paul Saints in the Independent Northern League, becoming the first woman, since the women in the Negro Leagues, to play professional baseball. A year later, she became the first woman to pitch a winning professional game, while playing for the Duluth-Superior Dukes. Borders went on to pitch for four seasons.

“It was electric,” Ardell said of Borders’ pitching that day in Costa Mesa. “She was on. She was focused, and she was determined. Her ponytail was blowing in the breeze, and she won 12-1.”

Ardell joined the postgame press briefing. Of course, the inquisitive scribe had to meet this fearless player, and she did. Ardell continued to write about Borders for the duration of her baseball career, with the two eventually developing a friendship, one that brought them together to publish Borders’ memoir, “Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey,” which will be released on Saturday.

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Originally published: April 6, 2017. Last Updated: April 6, 2017.