This story was originally released on OleMissSports.com.
By Connor Hennessey, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
If you’re familiar with the Ole Miss Softball team or follow the team on social media, you know the “Mississippi Mermaids.” Seniors Madi Osias and Natalie Martinez are wrapping up their final year at Ole Miss and have made memories of a lifetime throughout their time in Oxford.
They came into the Ole Miss softball program together in 2012 both from the West Coast, and it’s not the easiest transition coming from a place like California to a place like Mississippi.
“I think our relationship was the best one from our freshman class,” Martinez said. “We compete in everything we do, regardless of what it is.”
Osias was a four-year starter at Orange Lutheran High School in Tustin, California. While at Orange Lutheran Osias earned Orange County senior softball Player of the Year and Trinity League Most Valuable Player honors among other accolades her senior season.
Upon arriving in Oxford, Osias joined an Ole Miss pitching staff where she was able to find her role among the likes of Shelby Jo Fenter and Carly Hummel.
Martinez was a standout at Ayala High School in Chino Hills, California. She was honored with first team Sierra All-League honors her senior year and helped her team to a state championship her junior season.
When arriving on campus, Martinez first joined a group behind the plate that included veterans Kelly Nolan and Marina Parra. When Mike Smith took over as head coach last season, she became predominately a designated player where she batted .319 and cranked six home runs.
On the field, these girls are good, but it’s their stories away from the dusty softball diamond that make them so intriguing.
The pair was afforded a unique opportunity last summer when they were able to study abroad together in Florence, Italy, mostly paid for by their athletics scholarships.
“I think in the back of my mind I really wanted to do it,” Osias said. ” I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there, but I was set on going.”
“Coach (Smith) had mentioned that my scholarship would cover summer school, so I did some research with a few areas and they were able to pay the full tuition of our course,” Osias added.
The common misconception about study broad is that students will take easier courses so they can enjoy their time overseas, but that was not the case for Martinez and Osias.
Martinez took a course in traveling photography and earned three hours towards her Broadcast Journalism degree and will graduate in May with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in art.
“My professor studied at one of the most prestigious photography schools in New York,” Martinez stated. “That class was hard.”
Osias studied international marketing, which went towards her Managerial Finance degree. Osias will also graduate in May with a B.B.A. in Managerial Finance.
“This wasn’t just another easy class,” Osias added.
Though they took tough courses, the pair also took in the sights. Both were overseas for about six weeks total, only three of which were used for classes.
They enjoyed Florence, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Barcelona and Ibiza, Spain; Paris and London together. Martinez added a few more stops in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Austria.
“We didn’t just travel,” Osias said. “We saw museums, went cliff jumping, saw ancient ruins and bargained with Italians. We explored.”
The pair had a great time traveling throughout Europe, but when it came time to report back to Oxford, they had the early morning workouts in the back of their minds.
“We were scared to come back,” Martinez said. “I only spent nine days in California between Italy and coming back to Oxford.”
Coach Mike Smith and the softball strength staff have a tough workout schedule, and going from a summer of paradise in Italy to the weight room isn’t the easiest transition. With that being the case, Osias said they were ready.
“Granted, we had a lot of fun and were able to see a lot of things, but we kept ourselves in shape” Osias added. “Florence is a type of city where no one drives. On average we probably walked ten miles a day. We were out walking, biking, exploring and doing those things. It’s not like we sat around and did nothing all summer.”
Both Martinez and Osias are thankful the opportunity to travel overseas and study abroad came up last spring, because it was something both had on their to-do lists.
“My whole life I have dedicated my summers to playing softball,” Osias said. “I’ve always aspired to travel abroad and experience something different. I wanted to broaden my horizons and explore something I hadn’t seen first hand.”
They could have played at many different schools, but they didn’t. They’re at Ole Miss–together.
“Being a student-athlete, sometimes we miss out on cool experiences,” Martinez said. “The experience that I have as a student-athlete far outweighs everything other friends have done in my mind. It’s great being able to have the opportunity, and to have this experience with my best friend. Not only did I get to go abroad with Madi, I’m back here in Mississippi still experiencing great things.”
For Osias, college wouldn’t have been the same without Martinez.
“We’re both really blessed to have our paths cross in college,” Osias remarked. “To be able to find someone I relate so well to and to be able to share things that mean so much to us is awesome. Whether that’s our faith, softball or other things we keep each other grounded.”
The 2016 Ole Miss softball season gets underway in February with a trip to Hawaii for the Paradise Classic hosted by the University of Hawaii, but the Mississippi Mermaids are sure to add plenty of memories before then.
“We are just blessed to have this opportunity together,” Osias said. “I wouldn’t leave it to chance, I would say it was God’s plan for us.”
For all Ole Miss softball news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball and on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball. Fans can also follow head coach Mike Smith on Twitter at @msmithsb16.
Connor Hennessey is a writer in Oxford, Miss. He works in the Ole Miss Athletics media relations office, and this story was first featured on OleMissSports.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ConnorUM on Twitter.