Olympic softball pitcher found God in college

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BEIJING — Pitcher Monica Abbott contributed a perfect game and a 3-0 record to the U.S. women's softball team's 8-0 run at the Beijing Olympics, but the squad fell 3-1 to Japan in the gold medal matchup Aug. 21.

Abbott didn't get the start, but pitched the final two innings and gave up one run (not earned) on two hits while striking out three.

The U.S. team had topped the Japanese team 4-1 in an extra-innings contest Aug. 20 in which Abbott pitched all nine innings.

For Abbott, who voiced her faith in Christ during a Christian Broadcasting Network interview several weeks before the Olympics, a chance at redemption will have to wait until at least 2016, because the International Olympic Committee has voted the sport out of the Summer Games in London in 2012. Since softball was added to the Olympics in 1996, the U.S. women have won gold medals in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. Baseball also has been eliminated as an Olympics sport in 2012.

On the U.S. softball team website, Abbott says she always tries to start her day off with Scripture. Her favorite verses are Ephesians 5:1-2: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us...."

But Abbott, who pitched Team USA's first perfect game in the Olympics against the Netherlands Aug. 17, admits she hasn't always been close to God.

"My life was kind of like a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I knew there was something missing and always wanted to do my best, but I was struggling with it," Abbott, 22, said in the CBN interview.

During college at the University of Tennessee, Abbott said her life was filled with late-night partying and confused priorities. All along, she lacked a sense of peace.

"At the back of my mind, God was always there kind of pushing me and saying, 'Why are you doing this?' or 'This isn't you.' Let's say I had gone out that night and had a great time, the next morning or next day or two I'd be like, 'Why did I do that? I know that's not who I am, but I'm still doing it,'" Abbott told CBN. "I had to kind of break away from being a follower to just being my own self and being a leader and finding my way."

She started attending Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings and got to know the campus minister. She also devoted more time to reading the Bible and trying to figure out what she really believed about Jesus.

"Then I committed my life to Christ," Abbott said. "I definitely felt different about my life immediately. My emotions and just a calming sense, just a sense of peace, just knowing He was with me at all times, and being able to go out and glorify Him was probably my greatest joy."

In Beijing, Abbott's goal has been to point others to the source of her peace.

"I have to realize I'm not playing for me. I'm playing for God's glory, and I'm playing so that all the little kids and fans watching can see His light through me," she told CBN.

Abbott, a native of Salinas, Calif., graduated from the University of Tennessee last year and was named the 2007 National Collegiate Player of the Year, having set NCAA career records with 189 victories, 2,440 strikeouts, 112 shutouts and 253 appearances. She finished her career at Tennessee with 23 no-hitters and six perfect games.


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