This story is part of a series highlighting women in athletics at the University.
When Olivia Pichardo ’26 heard her name announced over the Murray Stadium loudspeakers Friday afternoon, she wasn’t just stepping into the batter’s box; she was taking a leap for all women in baseball. With a sharp first-pitch groundout to first base, the 18-year-old became the first woman to appear in a Division I baseball game.
“I (was) just taking deep breaths, just sticking to my routine that I would always do,” Olivia Pichardo said. “I just tried to treat it like I would any other at-bat.”
Olivia Pichardo is one of just 24 women to ever play collegiate baseball, over half of whom have made their debut since 2020. Being the first to play at the Division I level, she joins a growing list of women breaking gender barriers in the sport.
“Every time I got to the next level, parents and coaches would just come up to me and ask, ‘oh, when are you going to switch to softball,’ as if it was this … inevitable thing that must happen because of biological differences,” Olivia Pichardo said in a fall 2022 interview with The Herald. “But I always knew that it was gonna be baseball.”
Women that play baseball “are never given the benefit of the doubt,” said Olivia Pichardo’s father, Max Pichardo, who coached his daughter in the Forest Hills Youth Baseball League in Queens from age six to 12. “Anytime they get on the field, they get questioned. They get mocked. They get ridiculed. People assume that they don’t know how to play the sport.”
Recently, Max Pichardo was contacted by Forest Hills Little League to inform him that a growing number of girls were registering to play baseball.
“That really meant a lot to me,” Olivia Pichardo said. “Over the years, I’ve come back to umpire some of the games and I saw more and more girls playing baseball. It’s really nice to see this evolution.”
Olivia Pichardo hopes her accomplishments will inspire young women to continue pursuing baseball, including a group of players from the Pawtucket Slaterettes — the oldest-running all-girls baseball league in the country — who were watching in the stands when she made her debut.
“If you have a dream or a goal that’s not being encouraged because nobody else has done it before, hopefully Liv’s able to serve as inspiration,” said Head Coach Grant Achilles. “As a father of two girls, Liv’s somebody that I hope our daughters look up to for that purpose.”
“Nobody thought it was possible until it happened,” Max Pichardo said. “There needs to be one person to show what is possible.”
Linus is a sports editor from New York City. He is a junior concentrating in English, and when he's out of The Herald office you can find him rooting for the Mets, watching Star Wars or listening to The Beach Boys.