Clark’s Two Homeruns Pace Team NPF in Impressive Outing Against Olympic Team
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Team NPF made an impressive showing Friday night against the U.S. Olympic Softball Team at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City before falling 8-10 in a hard fought battle . Team NPF tallied 5 runs on 5 hits off of Team USA starter, Cat Osterman with 3 of the 5 hits leaving the ballpark, before Osterman was relieved by Jennie Finch in the top of the 5th. Jamie Clark (Chicago Bandits) led the way for Team NPF in the second inning and again in the 4th inning by hitting consecutive homers off of Team USA and Rockford Thunder pitcher, Osterman. Clark and teammate Kellie Wilkerson (Philadelphia Force) both had a three RBI effort on the night. Team NPF now has a record of 1-1 after defeating Team China in the opener of the Olympic Team scrimmages on Thursday night before a cancellation of the Team Canada match-up due to lightning.
“I am really proud of the performance of Team NPF against this Olympic Team. Team NPF played together for the first time yesterday as a team, and for them to play this way tonight and to make such a great showing against a well seasoned and experienced Team USA, just speaks volumes for the talented athletes that are playing in the professional League,” said Patty Gasso, Co-Coach of Team NPF. “This is a great group of women who made a very positive statement for professional softball in their performance tonight.”
In the bottom of the first, Team NPF pitcher Katie Burkhart (Philadelphia Force), just three days out of pitching Arizona State to its first ever National Championship, kept Team NPF out of danger after loading the bases in the first inning. Natasha Watley singled and was followed by Jessica Mendoza who was hit in the knee by a pitch. Burkhart chose to intentionally walk Crystl Bustos before a strikeout from Kelly Kretschman ended the threat. Burkhart would go onto pitch 4.1 innings in the game, with 4 strikeouts.
Team NPF catcher, Savannah Brown (Rockford Thunder) was the first NPF baserunner in the second inning as she reached first base on a throwing error by shortstop, Natasha Watley. With two outs, starting shortstop, Jaime Clark uncorked a monster of a homerun over the left field bleachers to take the 2-0 lead. This marked only the fourth time in 40 games that the USA has trailed in the KFC Bound 4 Beijing Tour.
In the third inning, after a walk and stolen base by Kristen Zaleski (Rockford Thunder), Tonya Callahan (Rockford Thunder) singled to left field for an RBI to move the score to 3-0 in favor of Team NPF. In the bottom of the third, Team USA answered with a two out back to back double rally by Kelly Kretschman and Andrea Duran. After the RBI by Duran, Burkhart intentionally walked catcher, Stacey Nuveman and gave up a single to Lovie Jung, before getting a ground out by Tairia Flowers to end the inning.
In the top of the 4th inning, Team NPF showed little mercy as the bats stayed hot. Savannah Brown led off the inning with a solo towering homerun to centerfield. Brown was followed by Jaime Clark who wasted no time in pounding her second consecutive homerun of the night off of USA hurler, Osterman.
The U.S. responded with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Watley and Jessica Mendoza both reached on fielding errors before Burkhart intentionally walked Bustos for the second time to load the bases. Kelly Kretschman then hit a three RBI double to right field mounting a comeback as the U.S. closed in the Team NPF lead to 5-4.
The U.S. exploded in the sixth inning recording six runs on five hits to take a 10-5 lead. Three infield hits and a fielders choice set the table for a fielders choice run and then a Bustos 2 run RBI into right field. Team NPF relieved Burkhart with League veteran, Jocelyn Forrest (New England Riptide). Forrest recorded a ground out before giving up a fielders choice RBI on a Kretschman ground out to Clark, followed by a 2 run homerun by Duran. That would seem to be a comfortable lead for Team USA and it would also be the final runs for the Olympic Team in the game.
In the top of the 7th, Team NPF continued to battle. After a lead-off walk by Zaleski and a single to right field by Callahan, Kellie Wilkerson stepped to the plate for a two strike crush into the right field bleachers off a Finch change-up offering. The 3 RBI bomb moved Team NPF to within 2 runs of the 39-1 Olympic Team. But that would be the final as Finch ended the game with a Savannah Brown swinging strikeout.
In the end, Team NPF had 8 runs on 7 hits and only left 4 runners on base in the outing. On the night Jaime Clark, Tonya Callahan and Kellie Wilkerson all had two hits a piece. Wilkerson and Clark both had 3 RBI, and Clark, Brown, and Zaleski all crossed the plate twice. Team NPF had a total of 4 homeruns in an impressive offensive showing. Team NPF will meet up with Team USA again next Saturday night in Normal, Illinois to an already sold out venue on the KFC Bound 4 Beijing Olympic Softball Tour. Both of the Team NPF/Team USA games will be aired tape delayed on ESPN on July 5th (Noon EST) and July 13th (1:00 EST).
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).