Abbott & Bandits Setting NPF on Fire

Monica Abbott is Stealing the Show in Chicago

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
ROSEMONT Monica Abbott is enjoying a resurgence in her professional softball career right now—and the Chicago Bandits couldn’t be happier. The superstar pitcher has led the Bandits to the top of the league standings and is the current pro league’s Pitcher of the Week. 
As a rookie in 2007, Abbott ignited the Washington Glory to the championship of the National Pro Fastpitch league.  But it has been an uphill battle ever since. 
In 2008 Abbott pitched for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics, leading to a Silver Medal finish. Not too shabby, but not the prize America was expecting. 
The Washington Glory folded the following year, sending Abbott on a cross-country odyssey through Florida in 2009, Tennessee in 2010 and Chicago this year. 
So far the Bandits are providing solid support for the talented flamethrower, who two days ago orchestrated an 18-strikeout one-hit victory over the current second-place team, the Akron Racers. 
Right now Chicago is sitting in the cat bird's seat. The defending champ USSSA Florida Pride—who beat the Bandits on national TV earlier this season—are struggling with a .500 record. 
And the league’s only other franchise, the NPF Diamonds, have their hands full as the league’s cellar dweller. 
That means 2011 could be Abbott’s year—again.
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Taryne Mowatt: The Next Jennie Finch?

She's a Chicago Bandit Now, and Set to Fill the Legendary Pitcher's Shoes

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
ROSEMONT Taryne Mowatt was softball’s hottest ticket back in 2007 when she led the Arizona Wildcats to the collegiate national title, picking up two ESPY Awards as a result (Best Female College Athlete and Best Female Athlete). But the road has been rocky ever since. 
The Wildcats made the NCAA tournament the following year but failed to go all the way.  Taryne decided to go pro and was drafted #6 overall in the 2008 NPF draft by the Washington Glory. The Glory won the NPF Championship that year, but Taryne saw only limited action and did not pitch in the finals. 
Taryne left the NPF for the Pro Fastpitch Xtreme (PFX) Tour in 2009, then rejoined the NPF last year as an Akron Racer. By her own admission she didn’t perform very well in Ohio. 
This year Taryne is making yet another fresh start, this time with the Chicago Bandits. To get Mowatt, Chicago traded away one of its most beloved and colorful pitchers, Kristina “Thor” Thorson. 
The Bandits are undoubtedly hoping that Taryne’s blond hair, model good looks and exciting pitching style will make the Windy City forget about the retirement of its legendary ace Jennie Finch. The face of the Bandits for years, Finch called it quits at the end of last season and is expecting her second child. 
The comparison between the two pitchers may be more than just marketing hype. Both grew up in Southern California, led Arizona to a national title and have similar pitching styles—largely because they had the same pitching coach: Jennie’s father Doug. 
The comparison begins tonight as the Bandits open their home season at 7:30 PM against the USSSA Pride in their new stadium in Rosemont, Illinois.
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Disney World/ESPN to Host Pro Season Opener

Monica Abbott to face Cat Osterman in Nationally Televised Game

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
NASHVILLE Eleven—count ‘em, eleven—former Olympic athletes will square off on June 11th as the National Pro Fastpitch league opens its season in Florida. 
Fans will finally get their wish for national television coverage as the game will be carried live on ESPN2 and ESPN3 at 3:00 PM EST. And you couldn’t ask for a better venue than the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World. 
The game will be a rematch of the 2010 Championship Series finale as the Chicago Bandits take on the world champion USSSA Pride. Although Chicago’s ace Jennie Finch retired from competition at the end of the 2010 season, the Bandits should find an able replacement in newly-signed superstar Monica Abbott. 
Abbott will go up against the other major superstar pitcher in women’s pro fastpitch today, Cat Osterman. 
The league made a change to its 2011 schedule to accommodate the televised game. The two teams were originally scheduled to open the Bandits home schedule on June 9th at their new $6 million dollar stadium in Rosemont, Illinois.
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Osterman Bests Abbott in Titanic Struggle

USSSA Pride Beat Chicago Bandits on National TV

By TSC Contributor KAYLA KNIGHT 
ORLANDO It was billed as a titanic struggle between the top two fastpitch softball pitchers in the world, and it delivered. 
Appearing for the first time ever in a Chicago Bandits uniform, Monica Abbott stepped into the circle before a national television audience tonight, facing off against last year’s champion USSSA Pride. 
The Pride had every reason to feel confident—after all, the Orlando-based team was playing in its hometown, and it had beaten the Bandits for the title last August, led by Olympic gold medalist Cat Osterman. Although Monica Abbott was a potent new addition to the Bandits arsenal, Chicago had lost its ace Jennie Finch, who retired at the end of the 2010 season. 
In a classic pitchers’ duel, Abbott and Osterman went back and forth throughout seven regulation innings—and three more to boot. 
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Abbott’s former teammate Tonya Callahan pinch-hit a two-run single to right field. 
Jamee Juarez countered in the top of the sixth by batting-in Alexis Jager for the Bandits first score of the game. One batter later, Shannon Doepking smashed a double to right field to send Juarez in from third, tying the game at 2-2. 
The game remained deadlocked going into the tenth when the International Tie-breaker Rule went into effect, placing a runner at second base for each team. 
In the bottom of the tenth with the bases loaded, two of the Pride’s former Olympians won the day: left fielder Jessica Mendoza slapped the ball down the first base line, allowing speedster Natasha Watley to scamper home from third to secure a 3-2 victory. 
Osterman won the strikeout derby for the Pride, finishing the game with 17 to Abbott’s five
. Read more.


2011 Pro Draft Bonanza!

This Year's NPF College Senior Draft is Star-Studded

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN 
2011 National Pro Fastpitch Draft Results 
Round One
NPF Diamonds - Kelsi Dunne, P, University of Alabama
Akron Racers - Taylor Schlopy, OF, University of Georgia
USSSA Pride - Jenn Salling, 2B, University of Washington
Chicago Bandits - Dorian Shaw, 1B, University of Michigan 
Round Two
Pride - Kelsey Bruder, OF, University of Florida
Racers - Megan Bush, UT, University of Florida
Diamonds - Morgan Melloh, P, Indiana University
Bandits - Megan Wiggins, OF, University of Georgia 
Round Three
Diamonds - Megan Yocke, C/IF, University of Kentucky
Racers - Toni Paisley, P/UT, East Carolina University
Pride - Jordan Taylor, P, University of Michigan
Bandits - Alisa Goler, 3B, University of Georgia 
Round Four
Diamonds - Whitney Larson, SS/UT, University of Alabama
Racers - Morgan Childress, P, South Carolina Upstate
Diamonds - Brittany Hile, C, Kansas University
Bandits - Kristin Shifflet, 2B/SS, Radford University 
Round Five (Final Round)
Diamonds - Aja Paculba, 2B, University of Florida
Racers - Kelly Grieve, OF, University of Tennessee
Diamonds - Rhiannon Kliesing, P/1B, Texas A&M University
Bandits - Kara Nelson, 2B, Illinois State University 
Bandits Draft Analysis 
The Chicago Bandits selected Dorian Shaw, 1st baseman, from University of Michigan in the 1st round, Megan Wiggins, infielder, from the University of Georgia in the 2nd round, Alisa Goler, infielder, from the University of Georgia in the 3rd round, Kristin Shifflet, SS/2B, from Radford University in the 3rd round, and Kara Nelson, 2nd baseman, from Illinois State University in the 4th round. The Bandits must be extremely confident with their pitching staff from top to bottom and must have gotten big inning commitments from Monica Abbott, Taryne Mowatt and Nikki Nemitz because the Bandits did not take a single pitcher! The Bandits are the only team not to take at least one pitcher this draft. But with the departure of two-time MVP Stacy May and slugger Samantha Findlay, the Bandits have some big holes to fill in their lineup. Let's go in for a report on the Bandits picks: 
#1: Dorian Shaw - 1B, Michigan
2010 Stats: .362 average, 21 home runs, 60 RBI, .988 fielding percentage
Shaw is a born slugger who smashed at the plate for Michigan in 2010. Her great combination of batting average and home runs is really uncommon and shows that she is a great hitter that is ready to compete at the next level. She also has a great .988 fielding percentage which shows she is a superior defensive player too. 
#2: Megan Wiggins - IF, Georgia
2010 Stats: .404 average, 16 home runs, 58 RBI, 19 SB
Wiggins is a classic three-tool hitter with a great average, power, and speed. Players that can post numbers in all three of those categories are extremely rare and will be a great asset to the Bandits next season. 
#3: Alisa Goler - IF, Georgia
2010 Stats: .377 average, 16 home runs, 57 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 55 walks
The Bandits snagged Georgia's 2nd best hitter after Wiggins by drafting Goler. Alisa is another proven hitter who can hurt you with her consistent contact and great power numbers. Goler's numbers would likely be more impressive but for the fact that she was walked 55 times in 2010! Goler put up 24 home runs in 24 for the Bulldogs and would easily have put up that many in 2010 but other teams were obviously afraid of her. I like that Goler also stole 10 bases in 2010. She has just enough speed to make the defense worry. 
#4: Kristin Shifflet - Radford University, SS/2B
2010 Stats: .426 average, 15 HR, 42 RBI, 23 SB, .478 OBP
Another power/speed combo player, Shifflet hits bombs and swipes bags. Her average is outstanding, and when she makes contact she knows how to get the ball over the fence. Her .487 on base percentage is also an out-of-this-world stat and I had to share it. I am a little concerned that she plays for Radford University because I have never heard of it and I'm sure she did not face the same level of competition as the other players drafted by the Bandits. 
#5: Kara Nelson - Illinois State University, 2B
2010 stats: .430 average, 22 runs, 3 stolen bases, 11 RBI
Nelson has the best batting average of the draftees, but not much else. She only has few stolen bases, 0 home runs and only a few RBIs. But to get to .430 you truly need to be a superior hitter and she will definitely be an asset to the Bandits offense this season. I could easily see her as a great end-of-the-order type player that knocks in the boppers from earlier in the lineup who have set the table for her. 
The Bandits made some great investments in their lineup, and with the help of Abbott shutting down opposing offenses the Bandits are going to be an elite NPF team in 2011. I can't wait to see their new hitters in action! 
Pride Draft Analysis 
The Pride had three picks in this year's draft. With those picks they selected Jenn Salling, 2B, from Washington University; Kelsey Bruder, OF, from the University of Florida; and Jordan Taylor, P, from the University of Michigan. The Pride already have an incredible roster filled with former Olympians, so any pieces they can add are merely the cherry on top of an already world-class sundae. The Pride selected two very athletic hitters in Salling and Bruder who possess great consistency, power and speed, and an elite NCAA pitcher in Taylor. The Pride would be a great team in 2011 regardless, but their draft made them even better. 
#1: Jenn Salling - 2B, Washington
2010 Stats: .352 average, 6 home runs, 51 runs, 14 stolen bases, 41 walks
With this pick the Pride are reuniting Salling with former teammate Danielle Lawrie. These two players were instrumental in leading Washington University to their first-ever NCAA softball title in 2009. Salling is a quality hitter tested in the crucible of the Pac-10 over 4 years. Salling has a terrific average, good power potential, and the speed to steal bases. My favorite stat of Salling's are her 41 walks. 41 walks means that roughly one-quarter of all of Salling's plate appearances ended in a walk. This number shows that Salling has a great feel for the strike zone and doesn't swing at bad pitches. 
#2: Kelsey Bruder - OF, Florida
2010 Stats: .367 average, 16 home runs, 12 stolen bases, 49 RBI
Bruder is another proven talent from a power conference. Bruder's numbers show that she has a bit more power than Salling but not quite as much speed. Bruder is yet another player drafted that can help in multiple statistical categories including average, home runs, and stolen bases. She is a very complete player who will only have to travel about 100 miles from her current residence in Gainesville to start playing pro ball in Orlando. 
#3: Jordan Taylor - P, Michigan
2010 Stats: 1.44 ERA, 26-4 record, 8 shut outs, 199.2 innings pitched, 316 strike outs, .162 batting average against
It is really a shame that Taylor fell to the 3rd round because she is a really special player. Taylor has a been a consistent top flight pitcher for every one of her 4 years of college ball and she is going to be a really great pro. I am a bit concerned that there won't be enough innings for Osterman, Danielle Lawrie, Sarah Pauly, and Taylor, but I'm sure the Pride will find a way to get Taylor involved. She is too good to keep on the bench. Taylor also looks like a model and could be a great marketing tool for the Pride. Put her with Megan Willis in a few commercials and there will be a few extra fans in the seats, I promise you. 
The Pride added three terrific players to their team this draft. I think their strategy of only picking from schools that play in the big conferences (unlike the Bandits who picked two of their five players from conferences I've never heard of) is a great one and will pay dividends in the upcoming years. The Pride were really good pre-draft, but they are even better post-draft.
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