University of New Mexico student Andrea Howard has been a player to be reckoned with ever since she started playing softball for the University back in 2017, but she has truly shined in 2021. This has been a year of personal bests in batting averages and home runs, but more importantly, it’s the year Howard became an international champion.
Howard has been a player with the Italian National Team since 2017 as a dual citizen and helped lead the team to victory in the 2021 Women’s European Championship earlier this month, which allowed them to qualify for the World Games 2022. In the final championship game against the Netherlands, she had a solo home run and a two-run home run to contribute to the final score of 9-5.
Hot off their championship win, the Italian National Team played in the Olympics from July 20-25 against teams from the U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico and Canada. While Howard didn’t have any big hits in the five games, she successfully caught two fly outs as a center fielder in the game against the Canadian team.
It’s been 13 years since softball made its last appearance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 17 years since Italy played in the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, Howard has had the Olympics in mind since 2019 when the team originally qualified after defeating Great Britain 5-0 in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Europe/Africa Qualifier.
“The Olympics was always such a dream to me, and when they cut our sport from the Olympics, it became less of a dream,” Howard said in an interview with GoLobos. “However, when they added it again, I still never thought I would have this opportunity to represent Italy in the Olympics.”
Back at school, Howard stood out from the pack by leading the softball team. For their 2020-21 season, she had a .336 batting average, 42 hits, 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in. She also had one of the highest fielding percentages (.977) and one of the lowest number of errors with only two.
Last May, Howard was awarded Mountain West Player of the Week after the Lobos ended the season with a three-game series against Utah State. Overall, Howard had 5 hits, a batting average of .500, an on-base percentage of .583 and 5 runs batted in. Notably in the second game, she hit two home runs.
Howard excels off the field as well, as she maintained her 4.0 GPA last school year while pursuing her biology major, which she plans to finish this year. In addition, alongside the now-graduated Cameryn O’Grady, she made the 2021 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District Softball Team.
While the Olympics didn’t end in a victory for the Italian team, they still have the 2022 World Games to prepare for, and Howard has a senior season as a Lobo to pursue even more athletic and academic accolades.
Shelby Kleinhans is the multimedia editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99