This weekend National Pro Fastpitch was filled with everything from no hitters to multi-home run games. It was a weekend for those who love offense and those who love a good pitchers duel. There was plenty of drama throughout the week as three of the eight games went into extra innings and as the leaders struggled, those at the bottom of the standings flexed their muscles. All in all, it was a great week for softball.
For the week, Monica Abbott threw her third no hitter of the year but also took an unexpected lost, her first on the season. The USSSA Florida Pride bats combined to hit eleven home runs in their series against the Akron Racers and the League as a whole hit twenty-two home runs. The Carolina Diamonds won their series taking three out of four games against the first place Chicago Bandits therefore proving just how competitive the League has become.
The first series of the week took place at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio as the USSSA Florida Pride faced off against the Akron Racers. Cat Osterman took the mound for the Pride in the first game and she delivered a gem. Osterman gave up no runs on two hits and recorded ten strikeouts in seven innings lowering her ERA to an impressive 0.87. The Pride came out swinging as well belting five home runs in the 12-0 victory in game one. Megan Willis went two for three hitting two of the five home runs for the Pride while adding a walk and three RBI’s in the game. The second game of the series felt like a repeat of game 1 as Pride pitcher Sarah Pauly pitched seven innings allowing no runs on six hits and recording eight strikeouts and 1 walk. Pauly grabbed her fourth win of the season as the Pride won 10-0. Sharonda McDonald was the lone bright spot for the Racers as she went two for three with a walk.
Game three featured rookie pitcher Brittany Mack of the USSSA Florida Pride. Mack went seven innings, giving up a lone earned run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Lisa Modglin delivered a single scoring Taylor Schlopy for the Racers’ only run of the game. Mack finished the outing giving up just five hits with seven strikeouts in an11-1 Pride victory. The Pride also added to the home-run tally sheet knocking four more home runs in the game bringing the total to eleven through three games.
The final game on Sunday brought more excitement to the series as Cat Osterman retook the circle against the Racers’ Lisa Norris. The game was knotted at two apiece after regulation and took two more innings to determine a winner. Norris was the victor in the rematch going the full nine innings and giving up only two runs, both earned, on six hits with seven strikeouts. Osterman started the 9th inning only allowing two unearned runs, three hits and eight strikeouts through 8 innings. However, the Racers Nicole Trimboli was not ready to go home and reached in the bottom of the 9th on a single. Aja Paculba came up two batters later and hit a walk off 2-run homerun to giving the Racers the 4-2 victory. Osterman finished with four runs, two earned, on five hits and eight strikeouts.
The week’s most intriguing matchup pitted the Carolina Diamonds against the Chicago Bandits at The Ballpark at Rosemont. The Bandits entered the series on a 3 game losing streak after dropping three to the USSSA Florida Pride last week as the Carolina Diamonds entered the series on a high note. Monica Abbott started in the series opener against the Carolina Diamonds’ pitcher Angel Bunner. Abbott had a very impressive outing throwing a no-hitter, just one batter shy of another perfect game. Rookie pitcher Angel Bunner tried to keep pace with Abbott and did so through five innings. The sixth inning unraveled Bunner’s performance as she allowed all four of her earned runs on a single, two doubles and two home runs. Kristen Butler started the inning with a solo home run followed by a double from Brittany Cervantes and later scored on a Tammy Williams single. Tammy Williams later scored on an Amanda Williams double but was called out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Shannon Doepking added to the sixth inning barrage by hitting a solo home run making the score 4-0 Bandits. Bunner finished the game going six innings allowing four earned runs on eight hits in the 4-0 Diamonds loss.
The second game of the series did not bode as well for the Bandits. The Diamonds sent veteran Katie Burkhart to the circle against the Bandits’ Nikki Nemitz. Both pitchers delivered great performances, but it was Burkhart who came out victorious. This was the second of three extra inning games over the weekend as the Diamonds and Bandits entered the 8th inning of play tied at one apiece. GiOnna DiSalvatore struck first in the top of the 3rd inning for the Diamonds with a solo home run and matched by Megan Wiggins’ solo homerun of her own to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning. After several scoreless innings, in the top of the eighth, Carolina Diamonds GiOnna DiSalvatore reached base again allowing ex-Bandit Rachel Folden to come to the plate. Folden was clutch as she sent a Nikki Nemitz pitch out of the park giving the Diamonds a late 3-1 lead. The lead was all Burkhart needed as she finished the game going eight innings and giving up only one run on three hits with ten strikeouts and a walk. Nemitz also went eight innings as well giving up three runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts.
The third game of the series between the Carolina Diamonds and the Chicago Bandits Saturday night was an awakening for the Diamonds, as they put a season high nineteen runs on the board against Bandits’ pitching. The Diamonds’ Bianca Mejia struck first with a 1st inning grand slam giving an early lead to the Diamonds. This was a season high posted by any team in the League as the Diamonds would score four runs in the 1st, one in the 2nd, four more in the 3rd, two in the 5th, and finish with eight runs in the 6th inning on fifteen hits and fourteen walks. Bianca Mejia finished two for five with six RBI’s as Natalie Villarreal, Kelsi Weseman and Danielle Spaulding also added three runs each for the Diamonds. Combined, the four went seven for sixteen with three home runs, fifteen RBI’s and four walks. The Bandits did not go down without a fight as they scratched out seven runs in the game, but it was simply not enough to overcome the powerful offensive showing of the Diamonds as they took game three 19-7.
The final game of the series was a rematch of game one as Monica Abbott took the circle against Angel Bunner. This was another extra inning game that lasted a grueling eleven rounds. Abbott threw an amazing 196 pitches and recorded seventeen strikeouts and still took the loss for the Bandits. The Diamonds found themselves down 4-2 heading into the top of the seventh inning when Jami Lobpries delivered a game tying single with the bases loaded. In the top of the 11th, it was Jami Lobpries again delivering a go ahead single scoring Bianca Mejia from second giving the Diamonds a 5-4 lead. Jami Lobpries was not finished battling as she made a spectacular diving catch to save the game for the Diamonds as she recorded the final out on a fly ball to center from Kristen Butler. For the night, Angel Bunner threw eleven innings allowing four runs, all earned, on seven hits. Abbott took her first loss of the season going eleven innings allowing five earned runs on seven hits with a whopping seventeen strikeouts. The loss by the Bandits dropped them out of first place in the League for the first time this season while allowing the USSAA Florida Pride to take over the top of the leader board in the League standings.
This week, the Racers will host an Exhibition Double Header against the Connecticut Brakettes at Firestone Stadium on Tuesday, July 23, and then welcome the Carolina Diamonds to Akron for a four game series starting on the 26th. The Bandits will look to regain first place in the standings, as they will travel to Kissimmee, Florida to take on the USSSA Florida Pride for another four game series starting Thursday the 26th.
About National Pro Fastpitch:
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball since 2002. www.profastpitch.com
Story By: Dustin Hood
Photo By: Dina Kwit