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It’s a ‘dream come true’ for Pendley

Shelby Pendley finished her career at the University of Oklahoma as one of the best college softball players of all time.

But if you thought you’d seen the last of her on the field, you just don’t know where to look.

On April 1, the USSSA Pride made Pendley the second overall pick of the National Pro Fastpitch league draft. She watched the draft in Moore, Okla., with friends and family, including her sister and Sooners teammate Nicole.

Rio Rancho's Shelby Pendley, who had a strong career playing at Oklahoma, is enjoying her first pro season. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Rio Rancho’s Shelby Pendley, who had a strong career playing at Oklahoma, is enjoying her first pro season. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Pendley, who starred at Rio Rancho High School before spending one season at the University of Arizona, is about a month into her professional softball career with the Kissimmee, Fla.-based Pride.

“It’s a dream come true,” Pendley said. “My ultimate dream when I was younger was to play college softball and then go to a World Series. Honestly, I never even thought about playing pro until my senior year.”

Pendley played her last game with the Sooners on May 23, a loss to Alabama in the NCAA Super Regionals. Six days later, Pendley signed a two-year contract with the Pride and headed to Florida for training camp.

“It was just enough time to get my stuff packed,” Pendley said. “But it wasn’t a hard transition. All the girls are awesome. I’ve been doing this my whole life, and this is just the next step.”

Pendley was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year and three-time All-American. She hit 24 home runs as a senior and finished her career with 84, which is the sixth most in Division I history.

Lauren Chamberlain, Pendley’s teammate at Oklahoma, hit 95 home runs and was selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the NPF draft by the Pride.

Chamberlain and Pendley have been called “the Ruth and Gehrig of softball” and once again they’ll team to form a Murderers’ Row.

“It’s a lot of fun, getting to play together for three years then going pro,” Pendley said. “It’s nice having someone there that you already know and have a relationship with. It just makes it easier.”

Pendley made it look really easy in her professional debut.

On June 6, Pendley started at second base and hit leadoff. She went 4-for-4, with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBIs, to lead the Pride to a 10-2 win over the Dallas Charge. Through 11 games, Pendley is hitting .297, with one home run and six RBIs.

“I didn’t really think too much into it until everything started happening,” Pendley said. “I don’t think it really hit me until I began playing pro ball.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been great. They take such good care of us here and it’s a blast.”

Pendley declined to give details of her contract but said she’s paid enough to live on without having to work another job.

The NPF website lists the average player salary at approximately $5,000 to $6,000 for the playing season of June, July and August. Housing is provided for all players by their teams.

“Ultimately, I think it’s about playing the game that you love,” Pendley said. “Regardless if I was getting paid or not, I would still be playing.”

Pendley said her playing the game will also aid the NPF, which has five teams this season and is the only professional softball league in America.

The Women’s Pro Softball League was founded in 1997 and folded in 2001. In 2004, the NPF revived the league. CBS Sports Network will air 16 regular-season games this season and all of the Championship Series games in August.

“I ultimately wanted to help the pro league in the United States, and I knew if I played in it that I would help it,” Pendley said. “Putting big names like Lauren and me and some of the other girls would help it get bigger. Where it came from to where it is now, it’s huge and a lot of people don’t know about it. I just don’t think it’s well known yet, and I think it’s going to get there eventually. I think the big names coming in who are playing are going to help it.”