Graduate infielder Arizona Ritchie represented Team Israel at the Softball European Championships in July, facing off against competition from around the world in Barcelona, Spain.
Ritchie, who is joining softball as a transfer this fall, has represented Israel for the past two summers and helped the squad finish sixth out of the 21 participating teams with a 4–5 record in the six-day competition, according to GW Athletics release issued earlier this month. She started in all of the team’s nine games at shortstop, collecting five hits and four runs in the week-long competition with a .227 batting average.
Ritchie said she was honored representing the Jewish ancestry of her mother’s side of the family during the championship while wearing Israel’s team uniform.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling and emotional a lot of the time I think, knowing that I have ancestors and my family comes from Israel and just the really rich history and adversity that Jewish people and Israelis go through, went through and go through today,” Ritchie said in an interview. “So it’s sometimes a heavy feeling like I get to do this, that’s awesome.”
Ritchie’s top offensive showing came July 26 during a comeback victory against France, keeping Israel in contention for a medal with a top-six spot in the tournament. Ritchie laid down a masterful two-out bunt that scored two runs when she sent the ball bouncing into the outfield while advancing to second base. She scored later in the inning after stealing third base.
Ritchie closed the tournament with two hits during Israel’s final game in a loss to The Netherlands, who went on to win the championship in late July. Ritchie said in the release that playing at the tournament was a “welcomed challenge” and taught her how more experienced players play the game.
“It’s really cool to face world-class competition, especially with some players being in their 30s and so experienced,” Ritchie said in the release. “I always welcome the challenge and study how they play the game so I can learn as much as possible.”
Ritchie has been a member of the Israeli team since her junior year when she obtained her dual citizenship to go compete at the international level. She said her past experience in the tournament prepared her for the increased demand of extended professional play instead of shorter weekend series in the NCAA.
“Honestly, it’s a different type of toll on my body,” Ritchie said. “I felt more prepared for that after having played a year with them. I just trained how I usually do during the summer – I maybe started way earlier than I would if I wasn’t playing for Team Israel – but I really did the same thing.”
Israel placed fourth in the championship during her first season with the team in 2021 when she hit .182 with four hits and six runs and a .966 fielding average. Ritchie said because most players live outside of Israel, the team can only practice together during winter break and the three days before the championship in June, leaving little time to develop team chemistry on the field.
“I would say the most challenging part is that the team, Team Israel, we all live across the whole country, and some of us in Israel and lot of people are on the west coast,” Ritchie said. “So we really only practice and train for a week together during the winter, we have a training camp and then before the Euros, it’s maybe three days of practice.”
Before joining GW as a graduate student this fall, Ritchie played for UVA where she recorded a .216 batting average with 52 runs and 45 RBIs and a .948 fielding percentage. As an infielder, she helped the Cavaliers set a program-high-tying 13 ACC victories that earned them the top seed at the National Invitational Softball Championship in the 2022 season.
Ritchie said a former teammate who started playing for Team Israel first connected her to its coaching staff before she received an invitation to join the team in 2021 pending citizenship in the country.
“I had a friend that I went to UVA with, and we played softball together, she was a senior when I was a freshman,” Ritchie said. “Once she graduated, she somehow found her way to Israeli softball, and I got connected that way. So I didn’t even know there was a Team Israel before that.”
Baseball Head Coach Greg Ritchie, Arizona’s father, said he has been “extremely proud” to see his daughter play with Team Israel.
“Playing for Team Israel definitely helps me stay ready for the fall in terms of training and staying in shape,” Arizona said in the release. “I love competing with my team, so my short time with Team Israel this summer got me really excited to go to work with my new GW family!”