2011 NPF Champ Series Begins Tonight

Cat Osterman & USSSA Pride Favored to Win Title

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
SULPHUR Following a grueling regular season, the National Pro Fastpitch league finally moves into playoff mode in Sulphur, Louisiana, located midway between New Orleans and Houston. 
The temperature in Sulphur is hot, hot, hot—estimated to be about 96 degrees (with a heat index over 100 degrees) at game-time. The oppressive heat should put a strain on players, coaches, umpires and fans. 
The USSSA Pride is a heavy favorite to waltz to the title and should have to no trouble getting by the NPF Diamonds in the first-round, although the Diamonds were the last team to beat the Pride in the regular season. There could be excitement if the Pride hold back its best players and look beyond the Diamonds. 
The real first-round story centers around the Akron Racers vs Chicago Bandits. These two teams have been jockeying back and forth all season for the #2 spot in the standings, and each has an outside shot at the title if the cards fall right. Of the two, Akron seems to have more confidence right now. 
As for the superstars, the Pride’s Cat Osterman seems healthy and hungry to repeat as champion whereas the Bandits’ Monica Abbott may be feeling a bit under the weather—nonetheless, both pitchers have been at the top of their games all season long. 
It drama starts to unfold tonight!
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Who Deserves a Max Pro Contract?

Cat Osterman & Three Others Merit the Best Deals

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN 
LOMBARD A recent article from the LA Times stated NPF players make $4,000-$15,000 per summer. So the question now becomes: who deserves a $15,000 max contract? 
Cat Osterman
This is a no brainer. Cat has been the ace pitcher on the two past NPF championship teams (Rockford Thunder and USSSA Pride). In her NPF tenure Osterman has a 27-3 record and has thrown 330 strikeouts in 200 innings. Cat's average ERA is 0.91. Cat's strikeout-to-inning ratio is a stellar 1.65. Most amazing, though, is that Cat is having her best season THIS YEAR. She is in the prime of her career and absolutely deserves a max contract more than any other. 
Monica Abbott
This is no brainer #2. Abbott has always been a bona fide ace pitcher at the highest levels of fastpitch. Abbott's numbers are eerily similar to Osterman. In two years of NPF service Abbott has compiled a 19-13 record (Abbott went 7-9 in 2009 with the abysmal Tennessee Diamonds) and has thrown 286 strikeouts in 211 innings. Monica's average ERA is .80 after two seasons. That means she lets up an average of less than one run per game! Monica's strikeout-to-inning ratio of 1.35 is not quite as high as Osterman's, but her numbers are still excellent. 
Stacy May-Johnson
May-Johnson is currently the best hitter in pro softball. She might even be the best we have ever seen in pro softball. May-Johnson has been in the league since 2006, but she has really come on strong the past three years. She has always been a great hitter for average, but she has developed power and consistency that makes her the best. In 2010 May-Johnson led the league in batting average at .333 and home runs at 12, and was second in the league in RBIs with 26. In 2008 she was second in the NPF in average with .391, tied for first in home runs with 13, and third in the league in RBIs with 34. Over the past three years she has averaged 10 home runs per year, .336 batting average, and 26 RBI. Her offensive talent easily warrants a max contract. 
Jessica Mendoza
I gave Mendoza a hard time for her performance last season. In 2010 Mendoza only his .292 with 5 home runs and 22 RBI; none of these numbers got her in the top 10 for any category. But Mendoza has really poured it on in 2011. This season she has a .394 ERA, 10 home runs, and a NPF-leading 35 RBI. Mendoza's average is good enough for second in the league. Plus, with Mendoza you not only get a valuable bat, you get a terrific spokesperson for the game and a recognizable name to put people in the seats. 
There is only one other player that I considered: Natasha Watley. Watley has led the league in batting average for 2010 and 2011, and has been #1 in the NPF in stolen bases for 2011 and #2 in 2012, but I do not value average and stolen bases as high as I would rank the average plus power combo of May and Mendoza. But Watley is close!
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Pro Softball 'Super Bowl' on National TV!

ESPN2 to Air National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
LOMBARD For the first time in half a decade, the “Super Bowl” of professional softball will be aired on national television. ESPN2 will air the final two games of the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series on Sunday, August 21st live from Sulfur, Louisiana at 2 PM EDT. 
The last time the NPF had national exposure for its title series was 2006, when Jennie Finch and the Chicago Bandits lost in a thrilling game to the Akron Racers 1-0. Akron, currently in third place in the NPF standings, has every intention of duplicating that feat this year. 
For its part, Chicago no longer has the services of its legendary ace Jennie Finch, as she retired from competition at the end of last season. But she will be there in the stands rooting for her former team. 
The Bandits are currently tied with the USSSA Pride for first place in the NPF standings, and are a favorite to make the finals again this year. Last year they lost to Cat Osterman and the Pride in a classic title series featuring Jennie Finch in her farewell performance. 
This year the Bandits will rely on
superstar Monica Abbott, newly acquired from the NPF Diamonds and playing at the top of her game. An Abbott vs Osterman showdown for the championship of professional softball would make for fantastic television...stay tuned!
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Pride Wins 2011 NPF Regular Season Title

USSSA Ballclub Clinches League's Best Record

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
GRAND PRAIRIE The reigning NPF champion USSSA Pride has dominated pro fastpitch since it was raised from the ashes of the old Washington Glory two years ago, but it has never won the National Pro Fastpitch Regular Season Championship—until now. 
Yesterday's 2-0 victory over the Diamonds clinched the league’s best regular season record for the franchise. That came as no surprise, as the team has dominated the NPF this season. The ballclub has recorded victories in 19 of its last 20 starts and, until recently, had an 18-game win streak going. 
Although the Chicago Bandits and Akron Racers have looked like bonafide challengers on occasion, the Pride looks like a shoo-in to cruise through this year’s playoffs in Sulfur, Louisiana next week. 
That would mean back-to-back NPF Championships for the USSSA ballclub, which has more ex-Olympians on its roster than any other in the league. 
Last year’s thrilling title victory was orchestrated by Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman, who had been sidelined with an injury for most of the 2010 season. Despite the handicap, the “Cat Woman” made an emotional return to the mound in the final game to capture the Cowles Cup. 
The victory spoiled the title aspirations of the Chicago Bandits and their superstar pitcher Jennie Finch, who retired following the playoffs.
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Thor's Revenge

Akron's Kristina Thorson Thumps Her Former Chicago Team

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
ROSEMONT Kristina "Thor" Thorson proved a point yesterday by defeating her former team the Chicago Bandits 7-3 on its home turf. Kristina, one of the most colorful and beloved pitchers in Bandits history, was traded to the Akron Racers for Taryne Mowatt in the offseason. 
Many thought Mowatt, with her model good looks and NCAA championship pedigree, would be the heir apparent to departing superstar Jennie Finch—but that hasn’t happened, at least not yet. Ironically Mowatt entered the game yesterday down by four runs in the third, but couldn't stop the hemorrhaging. 
Thor's win was especially sweet for the Racers because it kept Akron in the race for best regular season record: the Bandits and Pride are currently tied for first at 12-7, and the Racers are close behind at 10-9. 
Akron's Nicole Pauly continued to add to her impressive offensive numbers this season by hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning that put the game essentially out of reach for the Bandits at 6-0.
Teammate Samantha Marder also smashed a three-run bomb that got things started for the Racers in the first. 
With its ever-improving offensive firepower Akron continues to stay in the running for best team in the NPF.
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