(UGF Athletics) - Two former Lady Argo softball players will be playing professionally overseas in the next few weeks, continuing their softball careers after leading UGF to its first NAIA Opening Round appearance.
Team captain Keeley Van Blaricom left for the Netherlands on June 6th to pitch for the Hoofddorp Pioniers who started their season in mid-April and will play through October. She is the first Lady Argo to follow in the footsteps of UGF head coach Joey Egan, who played for a team in Amsterdam after a star career at MSU-Billings.
Van Blaricom had planned on joining the Pioniers since the start of her senior season with UGF after a former coach at the Tiger Softball Academy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan told her knew of a team that was interested in signing her. She jumped at the chance and then began to talk to Egan about the opportunity.
“I told her it would probably be the best decision of her live because I know it was for me,” Egan said about her advice to Van Blaricom. “Mostly the advice was just ‘do it! You need to do it!’”
The Pioniers are part of the Dutch Silver League which is one level below the Dutch Major League. Van Blaricom primarily be a pitcher and a batter for the Pioniers after being named First Team All-Conference as a Pitcher/Outfielder for the Lady Argos. Van Blaricom finished the 2016 season with a 13-8 record and an ERA of 2.22. She also hit .307 with 12 doubles and 16 RBI.
“I always wanted to play overseas, I just hadn’t really looked into it,” Van Blaricom said. “I’m very blessed that this came about. A lot of girls don’t get to continue to play after college.”
After Van Blaricom put post-college softball on the radar for some of her fellow seniors, teammate Mindy Larson has followed her lead. Larson, UGF’s starting shortstop and no. 2 hitter in 2016 has signed with Swedish club, Leksand Lumberjacks located in Leksand, Sweden. The Lumberjacks are currently second in the Swedish Baseball and Softball Federation standings and have won seven SBSF national championships.
Egan had been searching for an overseas opportunity for Larson but both assumed it won’t come till next year with most European teams already half way through their seasons. Then Leksand came calling and two days later offered Larson a contract and asked her to leave for Sweden in a week.
“Joey sent me an email saying ‘get back to these guys as soon as possible,’ and I did. That same day they gave me a call and everything happened within two days,” Larson said. “I haven’t had much time to think about it, it happened so fast. I’m really excited but nervous at the same time. It was just something I couldn’t pass up.”
Larson hit .228 with 14 RBI and 3 HRs for UGF while totaling 81 putouts and 90 assists for UGF.
Larson and Van Blaricom are part of a nine member UGF senior class that has built the Lady Argo program from an upstart to a nationally relevant competitor. Egan said that Larson and Van Blaricom are setting an example for the younger members of the team that extending their softball careers beyond college is within their capabilities.