Games were underway for the 15th season of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league this past week as the Beijing Eagles and Aussie Spirit went head to head to kick things off.  These two teams represent the international flavor and attention that has all eyes on professional softball in the United States.

The Beijing Eagles are now in their second season in the NPF after a shocking first year of winning only three games. Led by former University of Washington Head Coach, Teresa Wilson, the Eagles spent the off season with the majority of their training taking place at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, former spring training home to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Eagles home field this year is at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Dayton Beach, Florida.

The Aussie Spirit are the newest team to join National Pro Fastpitch.  They are a welcomed addition as they prepare to try and qualify for their fifth Olympic Games in 2020.  Australia is the only country other than the U.S., with four Olympic medals in the sport of softball. The Aussie’s own one silver and three bronze medals from their participation in the four Olympic Games of which softball was a medal sport from 1996 through 2008.

The Aussie’s  are living in St. Joseph, MO this season with their home field located at Missouri Western State University. The Aussies, of course, accent and all,  have been a big hit in the community and with their new fans.

Highlights of the week for Beijing included veteran Angel Bunner, tossing the first game of the season. Bunner was stellar in the circle allowing no earned runs.   She picked up the win and allowed two hits in the extra inning battle.  Later in the series for the Eagles, rookie, Emily Watson  recorded a win in her first career start while recording 10 strikeouts.

The Eagles are much improved this season, an obvious pay-off from the hard work and training put into the off-season. As a team in 2017, the Eagles did not have a single player hit over .300.  Conversely, first week out in 2018,  Lu Ping hit .450 on the week with 6 RBI,  and Li Qi followed batting .391.

The Aussies were led by Taylor Tsitsikronis who hammered 3 home runs in 6 games and led the squad with 5 RBI.  In the circle, Stephanie Trzcinski, threw 7 innings, sporting an impressive ERA of 1.00.

This week brings into action all of the affiliate teams of the NPF, rosters that include former NPF Cowles Cup Champions, the NPF Player of the Year, and various other decorated NPF players that include former Olympians, and NCAA Women’s College World Series Champions and Most Outstanding Players, NCAA All Americans, and NCAA Record holders.   On June 7, the 4-time Cowles Cup Champion, Chicago Bandits face off against 4-time Olympic medal winning Aussie Spirit.

By: Barb Jordan

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