Softball Notebook

The Softball Channel’s Fastpitch Blog

21  08 2013

Chicago Wins 2013 NPF Regular Season Crown

Monica Abbott Triumphs, Bandits Now Favored in Playoffs

By Karen Kage
TSC Contributor

In the history of the National Pro Fastpitch league there had never been so much at stake going into the last series of the regular season. Due to a revamping of the playoff format this year, the team with the best win-loss record gets a free pass to the playoff finals. Not a bad incentive if, as most teams do, you have a single star pitcher who can carry the day if she’s rested.

From the first few weeks in June it became apparent only two teams had a shot at that privilege: the Chicago Bandits and USSSA Florida Pride. And sure enough—like a good Hollywood script—both teams were red-hot (each winning 8 of its last 10 games) and running neck-and-neck with only a single head-to-head series remaining in the season.

The Pride had the bigger mountain to climb, having to win three of the last four games on the Bandits’ home turf. But after the Pride’s ace Cat Osterman stole the first game 3-2 over fellow Olympic teammate Monica Abbott, it looked like it might happen.

But the Bandits’ offense stormed right back in game #2, plating five runs on three hits in the second inning en route to an 8-0 blanking of the Pride.

Game #3 featured an extraordinary matchup between two rookie pitchers fresh off a national collegiate championship: former University of Oklahoma teammates Keilani Ricketts for the Pride and Michelle Gascoigne for the Bandits. The magnitude of the contest did not go unnoticed by the fans, as the Ballpark at Rosemont was sold-out for the first time in its history.

Ricketts won the game in convincing fashion 4-1, allowing only four hits and one run, to push back the decision for best record to a final Game #4.

Setting the stage for this epic encounter, the legendary Jennie Finch threw out the first pitch before another sold-out crowd. Abbott and Osterman would again face each other in this final showdown.

Abbott appeared relaxed and almost playful before the game, whereas Osterman was somber and all business.

The Pride jumped out to an early one run lead in the second inning after Kristyn Sandberg’s line-drive homerun to right-center field. But the Bandits staged a comeback rally in the fourth inning that put them ahead for good. Amber Patton’s single brought home pinch runner Danielle Zymkowitz to tie the game, and Vicky Galindo hit the go-ahead single to bring home Patton.

After striking out two batters in the seventh, Abbott got a popup to end the game. When she realized what had happened, she suddenly dropped to her knees like a rag doll from the strain of the game—both mental and physical. A battery of welcome hugs followed from her teammates.

In the battle of superstar pitchers, Abbott had clearly won this round. Monica recorded eight strikeouts to Cat’s five, allowed three hits to Cat’s six, and allowed one run to Cat’s three.

Although the Chicago Bandits now hold a huge advantage heading into the playoffs, the reality is that they had split their final series evenly 2-2 with the USSSA Pride, and each of their superstar pitchers had won one game apiece. The bottom line is the playoffs are still up for grabs!

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