By Marty Gitlin

Chicago Bandits owner Bill Conroy made no attempt to hide his enthusiasm.

But then, who could blame him? He had just selected Lindsay Schutzler.

The University of Tennessee outfielder/shortstop was the first pick in the National Pro Fastpitch draft. All she did last spring was bat .409, pace the Southeastern Conference in triples with eight and rank among the league leaders in hits, on-base percentage and runs scored.

In the process, she earned the Academic All-American of the Year Award and was a National Fasptitch Coaches Association first-team selection.

Yeah, Conroy was happy.

“She’s an outstanding athlete,” he said. “She can slap the ball, she can bunt and she can hit with authority. She’s the real deal. Plus she has great speed. She’s going to be a great addition to our outfield.”

New England Riptide General Manager Joe Adlman wasn’t exactly complaining either. He snagged Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canney with the following pick. Canney has proven to be one of the premier hurlers in Big 10 history while spearheading the Wildcats’ charge into the NCAA College World Series finals.

Canney led the league with 383 strikeouts and microscopic 1.20 ERA. She displayed her versatility in 2005 by batting .436 and earning Big 10 Player of the Year honors.

“She’s going to shore up our pitching staff to the point where it will be the best in the league,” boasted Adlman. “She will add power to an already impressive staff.”

The same could be said about Oregon State pitcher Brianne McGowan, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Force with the third overall pick. The right-hander fanned 258 batters in 267 innings while registering a 29-9 record and scintillating 1.36 ERA a year ago. She was also a member of the USA softball team that earned a gold medal in the World University Games.

Canney needn’t miss Wildcats teammate Garland Cooper. That’s because the Riptide grabbed that slugger with the fourth pick. Cooper’s career batting average of .397 and on-base percentage of .517 are among the best in Big 10 history. Her .436 mark a year ago garnered her first-team All-American honors. She was also named league Player of the Year.

“Cooper will add power into the lineup and make it difficult for pitchers to pitch around any of our middle hitters,” Adlman said.

The first pick by the Akron Racers was fleet-footed University of Oklahoma utility player Norrelle Dickson, who led the Big 12 in batting (.449), runs (66), hits (93) and on-base percentage (.515). She also paced the Sooners with 23 stolen bases in just 25 attempts.

The Washington Glory had to wait until the second round to draft, but still came away with University of Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott, who is fourth in NCAA history with 142 career wins. The 6-foot-3 southpaw needs just 10 more this season to break the all-time mark set by Courtney Blades.

The Glory also grabbed University of Maryland utility player Amber Jackson and Baylor pitcher Lisa Ferguson in the second round.

“Things went even better than planned for us and I am absolutely ecstatic with the outcome of our draft selections,” said Glory owner Paul Wilson. “These talented players come from great softball programs throughout the country and will add just the right combination of skill, power and finesse to our lineup.

“Our plan this year is to build the winningest team in the league and win the NPF 2007 Championship Series in our inaugural season!”

The Rockford Thunder snagged two selections in the third round and one in the fourth, including North Carolina State All-American pitcher Abbie Sims at No. 16, who has recorded 63 wins in her first three seasons. She even led the team a year ago with a .287 batting average.

“Abbie is a player we had on our radar since we started preparing for the draft,” said Rockford General Manager Aaron Moore. “And when she was available at No. 16 (overall) we were ecstatic. She has the potential to come in and contribute right away, both in the circle and at the plate.”

New NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf spoke of the draft as not only a spotlight for the college talent, but as an opportunity for those players to take their careers to a more challenging and exciting level.

“The NPF showcases some of the world’s best softball players,” Kempf said. “The NCAA Draft gives us the opportunity to tap into the elite talent coming out of the college level and bring it to our fans. We’re thrilled to add the hottest college players to our teams and bring even more electricity to the 2007 season.”

The SEC boasted the highest number of draftees with eight, followed by the Big 12 with seven. Tennessee, Baylor and Georgia tied for school honors with three selections each.

Due to NCAA regulations, an active college senior-athlete is not eligible to sign with her respective franchise until their 2007 season is completed.


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