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National Pro Fastpitch Announces Team-NPF Roster
Team NPF Will Play Twice in Exhibition Games against the U.S. Olympic Softball Team
DENVER – National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Commissioner Cheri Kempf released the roster today for Team NPF, an All-Star Team that will face the U.S. Olympic Softball Team twice this summer, as part of their Bound-4-Beijing Tour. Seventeen players make up the roster of the squad that will face the Red, White and Blue. The first game is at 6 p.m., on June 6 at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City and at 3 p.m., on June 14 at Champions Park in Normal, Ill. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN (Saturday, July 5 at noon EDT for the June 6 game and Sunday, July 13 at 1 p.m. EDT for the June 14 game).
Team NPF will also compete against Team Canada and Team China on Field No. 4 at Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday, June 5. Game times are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“We are excited to bring premiere NPF competition to fans this summer as we face off against the U.S. Olympic Softball Team, Team Canada and Team China,” said Cheri Kempf, NPF President. “All three teams are preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and NPF represents the highest level of competition they will face. We look forward to exciting games and showcasing our talented athletes to the fans of Oklahoma City, Normal, Ill, and the ESPN television audience.”
Patti Gasso, the head softball coach at the University of Oklahoma, and Cindy Bristow, a private instructor, will be co-head coaches of Team NPF. Bristow was head coach and assistant general manager of the Georgia Pride, which later became the Florida Wahoos, a team in the Women's Professional Softball League.
“It is a pleasure and thrill for me to be coaching such an outstanding and accomplished group of the best the NPF has to offer. With such an elite group, we will be able to challenge any team at any time!” stated Gasso.
The Philadelphia Force led the way with four selections on the team, including two draftees who will be confirmed upon completion of their college seasons. The Akron Racers, New England Riptide and Rockford Thunder each add three players to Team NPF, including two draftees for the Thunder, while Chicago and Washington added two players to the squad.
Following are brief profiles of each team’s players selected to represent TEAM NPF. Note: Although draftees are listed for information purposes, they will not be confirmed on Team NPF until they sign a contract with their respective NPF team following the completion of their college season.
Catcher Kristen Butler, a 2007 All-NPF at-large selection, blasted a team-high nine home runs for the Akron Racers last year. She recorded a .550 slugging percentage and drove in 29 runs. The University of Florida product was the 2006 SEC Player of the Year and owns the Gator season record with 17 home runs (2006). She nabbed 22 would-be base stealers in 2006 and picked off eight in 2003.
Norrelle Dickson was a 2007 All-NPF first-team selection after being taken with Akron's first selection in the 2007 NPF Draft. She led the NPF with a .387 batting average and stole 13 bases with 20 runs scored. The three-time All-America selection at Oklahoma was the 2007 Big 12 Player of the Year, as well as a 2007 Academic All-American. She was a member of the 2003 and 2004 USA Elite Team and owns the top career marks at OU in at-bats (816), runs scored (234), hits (328), batting average (.402), stolen bases (110), on-base-percentage (.484).
Veronica Wootson, who plays second base for the Akron Racers, won the 2007 Nokona American Glove Offensive Player of the Year Award and was a 2007 All-NPF first-team selection. She was named Akron’s 2007 Most Valuable Player after hitting nine home runs with a .311 batting average and a team-high 27 runs and 29 RBI. A three-time All-American at Florida State University, she holds the FSU career mark with 29 home runs and owns a spot in 10 different career offensive categories. Wootson is among FSU’s top 10 in five season offensive categories including runs scored (70, 2004) and home runs (11, 2007).
Jaime Clark, an infielder for the Chicago Bandits, is a three-time All-American from the University of Washington and was a member of the 2004 gold-medal winning USA Olympic Softball Team. Clarke is a three-time All-NPF team member. During the 2007 campaign, Jaime Clark was atop the team in batting average (.303), runs batted in (24) and homeruns (6). In 2006, she led all with a record breaking 32 RBI. Clark has maintained the top spot in homeruns and RBIs for the past three seasons as a Bandit.
As a rookie, Kristina Thorson set single season records for the Philadelphia Force in wins (14), innings pitched (116.2), strikeouts (115) and earned run average (1.20). She finished the NPF season in the top five for ERA, strikeouts and wins. At Cal-Berkeley, Thorson had a stellar senior year earning PAC-10 Pitcher of the Year honors. She also set Cal’s single season record for wins (36) and saves (5). Thorson was a three-time second-team NFCA All-American and three-time first-team All PAC-10 selection. She received All-NPF Team honors in 2007 and was the 2007 NPF Rookie of the Year.
New England Riptide
Shanel Scott is in her second year playing outfield for the New England Riptide. In her senior year at Oklahoma State University, she stole 51 bases to lead the nation in that category. She then led the NPF in stolen bases with a league record 34 swipes, helping her to a spot on the All-NPF Team. Her .324 average led the Riptide and her 35 runs was tops in the league. She holds the OSU career record for runs scored with 162 and is second in hits. Scott was named to the second team All Big 12 for her sophomore and garnered first team All Big 12 honors in her senior year.
Carri Martin is a second year New England Riptide player in her fifth year of professional softball. She joined the NPF in 2004 signing with the NY/NJ Juggernaut and was an integral part of the team’s first NPF championship win, leading the team with 11 stolen bases. When the Juggernaut became the Philadelphia Force in 2006, Martin moved with them and led the team with a .307 batting average and a .371 on base percentage. This year was capped off by being awarded the NPF Defensive Player of the Year award. She ended her career at Northwestern University ranking in the top seven in 10 different career offensive categories and was a three-time All-Big Ten Team selection.
Jocelyn Forest, a 2002 College World Series MVP from Cal-Berkeley, joined the New England Riptide at its inception in 2004. Her 43 career wins and 409 strikeouts rank tops in NPF record books and she was instrumental in leading the Riptide to its first NPF Championship Title in 2006 posting a 15-5 record and 1.29 ERA. In 2005 Forest split her time between the Riptide and the US Elite team, still managing a 9-4 record with the Riptide and winning the prestigious Canada Cup with the Elite team. In 2003 she played overseas in Holland helped to bring team DSC 74 its first national title. In 2002 Forest carried her Cal-Berkeley team to its first NCAA championship, pitching every game in the 2002 College World Series.
Megan Gibson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NPF Senior Draft. The Texas A&M pitcher/first baseman was selected by the Philadelphia Force. In her junior season, Gibson started in all 60 games with 25 of them in the circle for the Aggies. As a pitcher, she compiled a 17-4 record with a 1.54 ERA and pitched 14 complete games while posting eight shutouts. She struck out 157 batters in 155 innings of work. Gibson was just as dominate at the plate for the Aggies. She posted a .388 batting average and slammed 13 home runs, both were team bests. Heading into NCAA postseason play, she is 33-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 268 strikeouts. At the plate, she is hitting .342 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI.
Sharonda McDonald was selected by the Philadelphia Force in the 2007 draft from Texas A&M. In her rookie season, she was named an All-NPF selection (outfield). McDonald was second on the Force and fourth in the NPF with a .331 batting average last year and in 2007, she set a Force team record with 13 stolen bases. The left-handed McDonald was tied for second on the team in runs scored with 20 and her 40 hits were good for second on the Force. At Texas A&M, she batted .338 for her career with 153 stolen bases and seven triples, earning All-Big 12 honors.
Kellie Wilkerson of the Philadelphia Force is entering her fifth season in the NPF. In 2007, she was named an All-NPF selection at first base. Wilkerson was tied for the team lead in RBI with 18 and tied for the team lead in home runs at five. Wilkerson, a left-handed hitter, laced five doubles, which was tied for the team lead and she led NPF in base on balls (32). The 2003 graduate of Mississippi State University posted a batted average of .321 (34-106), and led the Force in on-base percentage (.486) and in slugging percentage (.528).
Katie Burkhart was the No. 1 pick overall by the Philadelphia Force in the 2008 NPF draft. Burkhart, a dominating pitcher from Arizona State University, holds nearly every pitching record in Sun Devil history even prior to her senior season. In 2007, she set new ASU records when she posted a 1.11 ERA, won 35 games, and recorded 517 strikeouts. The lefty has nearly 1,600 career strikeouts, which is a school record. Entering the postseason, Burkhart is 32-5 with a 0.88 ERA and 418 strikeouts in 255.1 innings.
Thunder outfielder Kristen Zaleski is a three-time All-NPF selection and was the 2005 NPF MVP after leading the league with a .468 batting average, 10 triples and 33 stolen bases. She is a career .349 hitter and ranks either first or second in 11 of the 14 offensive categories kept by the team, including batting average, hits and runs scored. In 2007, Zaleski hit .328 on the season and paced the club with 45 hits, 25 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. While at Texas State University, Zaleski earned All-American honors two times.
Catcher and Thunder draftee Savannah Brown, was selected with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2008 NPF Senior Draft out of Georgia Tech. As a junior in 2007, Brown set a new single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record with 76 runs batted in, which was good enough for second-best in the nation. Brown broke the ACC record for RBIs this season, passing the Washington Glory's Sara Larquier for the top spot. Entering the 2008 NCAA postseason, she was hitting .272 for the Yellow Jackets with eight home runs and 36 RBI.
University of Tennessee infielder Tonya Callahan was the third round selection of the Rockford Thunder in the 2008 NPF Senior Draft. Entering her senior season with the Volunteers, Callahan had been named to consecutive All-America teams, including a second-team selection in 2007 in which she set the school career home run record with 35. Through the 2008 regular season, Callahan hit .473 for the Lady Vols, good for fourth in the country and she also set the school record for RBI in a career.
Infielder Amber Jackson, from the University of Maryland, was the 2007 NPF Player of the Year in her rookie year and a 2007 All-NPF first-team selection. Jackson finished her collegiate career as the 12th player in NCAA history to record 300 hits, 200 runs, and 100 stolen bases earning second-team All-American honors as a senior. Amber Jackson is a clutch player that simply changed the outcome of games for the Glory on multiple occasions both with her bat and glove.
Desiree Serrano, a right-handed pitcher from Arizona State University, was a 2007 All-NPF first-team selection and was named the 2007 NPF Pitcher of the Year. Her 18 wins set an all-time NPF record for the regular season. At Arizona State, Serrano was instrumental in the Sun Devils’ success, posting a career low 1.41 ERA in her senior season to go along with a 17-7 record. She finished her career with a 63-41 record with a 1.90 ERA and 786 strikeouts in 726.2 innings pitched.
Team NPF Roster
The U.S. Olympic Team is comprised of 15 players and three alternates for the Beijing Olympics. The Bound-4-Beijing tour will make 42 stops across the country and the team will compete in over 60 games against NCAA Division I opponents, Regional All-Star teams and International Competition. Monica Abbot, Cat Osterman, Kelly Kretschman, Vicky Galindo and Jennie Finch have previously played for NPF Teams and are expected to return to league competition in 2009.
Currently, the Red, White & Blue is 31-1 during the KFC Bound 4 Beijing Tour including outscoring opponents 326-12. The team is coming off a tight 2-0 victory over the NPF Glory in Bowie, Md., where a pre-Olympic tour record-breaking 8,274 fans watched the game.
The offensive leader for the U.S. is outfielder Jessica Mendoza who has contributed 53 RBI with a team-high 49 hits. She has scored 39 runs and is error-less in 31 starts in left field. In the circle, Jennie Finch has worked 58.1 innings with a 0.36 ERA. The right-handed pitcher is 8-1 while owning a team-high 119 strikeouts.
Major League Baseball is the Official Development Partner of National Pro Fastpitch in the category of women's professional fastpitch softball. The partnership, which began the fall of 2002, is part of The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball, a league-wide effort to help Major League Baseball and the 30 Major League Clubs build stronger relationships with female audiences.
The 2008 NPF Season kicks off on Thursday, May 29th, with the Chicago Bandits at the Rockford Thunder, Netherlands National Team at Philadelphia Force and New England Riptide at Washington Glory.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Denver, Colo. 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 Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL).