Pro Softball Spreads from Sea to Shining Sea

The NPF Extends its Reach from Atlantic to Pacific

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT  
LOMBARD The National Pro Fastpitch league may have dwindled down to a mere four teams during the current economic downturn, but that hasn’t stopped it from expanding its fan base geographically. The NPF’s newest team, the Diamonds, is relocating from Kissimmee, Florida, to South Carolina. And last month the league’s remaining Florida team, the USSSA Pride, travelled to California to play in the Palm Springs Classic tournament against four college teams. Read more.     

The Diamonds move to North Carolina was a welcome one for the NPF as it strengthens its weakest link. Most importantly the team will assume private ownership, taking a huge financial burden off the league which was subsidizing it. Consequently the name of the team will change from the NPF Diamonds to the Carolina Diamonds.  
New owner Amelia Nemeth will be joining Joey Arrietta, co-owner of the Akron Racers, as the only females in what has largely been an “Old Boys’ Club” of team ownership. Nemeth and husband Alan Demaske will also be involved in the day-to-day operation of the franchise. The Diamonds will be based out of Charlotte, North Carolina but will play in various venues throughout North and South Carolina. Read more.     

The NPF’s journey to the West Coast is long overdue. California and Arizona have long dominated collegiate fastpitch softball, but they haven’t been able to sustain professional teams: the California Sunbirds folded after their inaugural season in 2004 and the Arizona Heat lasted three seasons before folding in 2006.  
Various theories have been proposed for the failure of pro softball out West, including the hot summer weather and plethora of other outdoor activities to lure fans away from the ball field, but the fact is it just hasn’t caught on. The NPF is hoping to change all that by showcasing its Olympic-caliber talent in the Golden State. Read more.     

Spreading the word about professional women’s softball has been a passionate pursuit for the NPF the last few years, as it has held games in as many different locales outside of its home venues (Chicago, Akron and Orlando/Kissimmee) including Texas and Canada. And for two years it has organized a fall “Back to School Tour” across the USA, playing against college teams from San Diego to Daytona Beach. Read more.     

The beginning of the 2012 season is only about three months away, so get ready for an exciting season. The NPF Championship Series will be held this year in Rosemont, Illinois, home of the Chicago Bandits.


Monica Abbott & Chicago Bandits Win Pro Title

Rout Favored USSSA Florida Pride before a National TV Audience

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
SULPHUR  It’s been a long four years since Monica Abbott won the NPF championship. A lot has happened since then: a trade from Washington to Nashville and then one to Chicago, a silver medal at the Beijing Olympic Games, and two titles by fellow superstar Cat Osterman. 
But today was Monica’s day. 
In sweltering 100+ degree weather and in front of a national television audience on ESPN2, Abbott led her Chicago Bandits past the heavily favored USSSA Florida Pride 10-3 for the NPF title. 
Back in 2007 Abbott was a rookie phenom, but this year she was every bit the confident and determined professional, pitching in each of the Bandits four playoff games, starting three and winning four. She was fittingly named Series Most Valuable Player. 
The rest of the Bandits squad did its part, producing a surprisingly effective offensive attack—including a five-run first inning—against the Olympian-laden Pride. 
The Bandits received a huge shot in the arm yesterday when the Pride’s superstar pitcher Cat Osterman went down with an injury. Presumably both Abbott and Osterman will return next year to resume a rivalry that is quickly becoming one of the best in sports.
 Read more.


Osterman vs Abbott for NPF Title

USSSA Pride vs Chicago Bandits for 2011 NPF Championship

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
SULPHUR Both the USSSA Florida Pride and Chicago Bandits survived nail-biters yesterday to sweep their best-of-three semifinal series against the NPF Diamonds and Akron Racers, respectively, sending them into the championship round to face each other for the second year in a row. 
The Orlando-based Pride had expected easy going against its Florida cousin—after all, the Kissimmee-based ball club had only won 6 out of 38 games all season, and doesn’t have the “Olympic star power” the Pride has. 
Following the script, the Pride jumped out to an early 4-0 on Thursday night before rain and lightning suspended the game. 
Maybe it was the heat, or that the Pride was looking ahead to the finals, but when the game resumed on Friday the Diamonds came storming back. In a panic the Pride sent its ace Cat Osterman into the game to salvage a potential disaster, winning the game in the last half of the last inning. 
Chicago also had its share of drama. After cruising to victory in its opening game against Akron, the second game went into extra innings and, like the Pride, the Bandits had to call upon its superstar Monica Abbott to save the day. 
The Pride vs Bandits matchup in the finals is a dream matchup for ESPN because it will pit the NPF’s two marquee players—Osterman and Abbott—against each other. 
Last year Osterman surprised everyone by coming off an injury to win the championship game for the Pride, but the Bandits were without Abbott. This year Chicago is hoping she is the difference. 
The Pride still has the advantage because Osterman is more rested. Unlike the Pride, Chicago does not have a bona fide backup pitcher, forcing Abbott to singlehandedly carry the Bandits on her (rather broad) shoulders. And amid rumors she might be sick, one has to wonder how long she can last. 
And speaking of star pitchers, let’s not forget about the Pride’s Sarah Pauly. She threw a one-hitter in game two and has been an unsung hero for years. If the Pride goes on the win the title, it will be Pauly’s fourth—more than any active NPF player. 
The Championship Round begins tonight in Sulphur, Louisiana at 7:00 PM CDT.
 Read more.


Bandits on Verge of NPF Title, Osterman Out

Chicago Wins Game #1 of Finals Following Cat Osterman Injury

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
SULPHUR  The first game of the championship round of the 2011 NPF playoffs can be summed up in one word: karma. 
Last year the USSSA Florida Pride pulled a rabbit out of its hat by putting superstar pitcher Cat Osterman—who had been sidelined with a biceps injury for most of the season—on the mound for the title game against the Chicago Bandits, winning it in spectacular fashion. 
This year Osterman had to walk off the mound in mid-game due to the same injury. Her departure followed a flurry of three runs scored by—you guessed it—the Chicago Bandits. 
Although the game remained close the Pride never quite recovered, losing the game 4-3 in overtime. 
For her part opposing Bandits ace Monica Abbott was on fire, barking out orders and encouragement after each out. She pitched a complete game with 8 strikeouts. 
On offense former Olympian Vicky Galindo was a standout for Chicago—both emotionally and physically—going 3-for-3 with two runs scored including the game-winner. 
Whether the "Cat Woman” will return or not for today’s second game of the best-of-three title series is unknown, but if she doesn’t it will disappoint a national television audience expecting an Osterman vs Abbott matchup. 
It will also give an enormous advantage to the Bandits, who are one game away from the NPF title. 
The Championship Round continues today in Sulphur, Louisiana at 1:00 PM CDT, and will be aired live on ESPN2.
 Read more.


Chicago Takes Early Lead in NPF Playoffs

Bandits Win 8-1 over Racers; Pride Ahead 4-0 vs Diamonds

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
SULPHUR There were a few surprises as the first round of the National Pro Fastpitch playoffs got off the launch pad yesterday. 
First and foremost was the ease at which the Chicago Bandits dispatched the Akron Racers, trouncing them 8-1 in the opening game. 
And while the second game followed the script with the #1-seeded USSSA Pride cruising to an early 4-0 lead against the lowly #4-seeded NPF Diamonds, the rain storm that suspended the game came out of left field. 
The region is currently experiencing a record-breaking drought, so a rainout was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. And while the amount of precipitation was not overwhelming, near continuous lightning kept the field off-limits for hours until the organizers finally called it quits. The game will resume today at 3:30 PM CDT. 
The first game promised to be a grueling contest with temperatures close to 100 degrees at game-time. Both teams started their ace: Monica Abbott for Chicago and Lisa Norris for Akron. 
Abbott was shaken early when the umpires called her for illegal pitches—something she had trouble with in the 2008 Olympics.  But she soon corrected the problem and regained her composure, without a trace of the illness she was reportedly suffering from. 
Lisa Norris, on the other hand, was on the ropes all evening due to the effectiveness of the Bandits offense. 
Fortunately for the Racers, it has an ace-level #2 pitcher in Kristina Thorson whereas the Bandits do not. However, the pressure will be squarely on Thorson’s shoulders as the Racers face elimination with a loss.
 Read more.

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