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NPF Makes 2008 Draft Selections
Force Take ASU’s Burkhart with No. 1 Pick

DENVER – National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) and its six-affiliate teams held its annual Senior Draft on Monday via conference call to select 24 of the best college players in the four-round draft.

Each team had at least three selections in the four-round draft, with the Akron Racers holding a league-high six picks. There was also a lot of movement prior to draft day in terms of the final order, with 14 of the 24 picks changing hands between the teams.

When the order was finalized, it was the Philadelphia Force that held the No. 1 overall selection, a pick they acquired in an off-season trade with the Chicago Bandits. Philadelphia also held the No. 2 overall pick, followed by the Akron Racers, New England Riptide, Rockford Thunder and Washington Glory to close out the first round.

NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf spoke of the senior draft, as not only a way to spotlight the top college talent from across the county, but as a great opportunity for those players to mature in the most competitive league possible.

“Once again, the NPF draft showcases the top talent in college softball,” stated Kempf. “It will be exciting to see these athletes mature as professional players, within the most competitive environment in the sport- the National Pro Fastpitch League.”

Due to NCAA regulations, an active college senior-athlete is not eligible to sign with her respective franchise until their 2008 season is completed.

Following is a recap of each team’s top picks.

Burk Action2 web.JPGPhiladelphia Force 
After finishing the 2007 NPF regular season in fifth place and carrying one of the league’s highest earned run averages, the Force knew they would have to get stronger in the circle for 2008. And they may have done just that by drafting two of the top pitchers in the country in Katie Burkhart and Megan Gibson with the No. 1 and 2 picks, respectively.

Burkhart, a first-team All-American selection out of Arizona State, finished the regular season with a 28-10 record and 404 strikeouts. She also maintained a 0.90 ERA as a junior for the Sun Devils.

“The Force is very excited about adding Katie Burkhart to their pitching rotation,” said Force GM Tom Kleinman. “We played against her last year in an exhibition game in Philly and she was awesome. The addition of a lefty to our team will make us so much more competitive.”

Philadelphia selected Gibson with the second pick of the draft and will look for her to produce both in the circle and offensively. As a junior at Texas A&M, Gibson finished the season with a 16-3 record and 1.40 ERA. She also carried an impressive .418 batting average during the regular season to be named to the Louisville Slugger NFCA All-American team.

“The Force is thrilled to add Megan to the roster,” stated Kleinman. “She is a multi-talented player that no doubt will compete for a starting position everyday, even when she is not pitching!”

In addition to the pitchers, Philadelphia selected utility infielder Savannah Long with the No. 8 pick in the draft, as well as Indiana catcher Tori Yamaguchi with the 21st selection.

Akron Racers
Akron, who held the No. 3 pick in the draft after trading first round selections with Rockford, followed the Force’s lead and selected pitcher Angela Tincher from Virginia Tech University.

tincher web.jpgTincher, who like Gibson and Burkhart, was also a first-team NFCA All-American selection. She finished the 2007 regular season with a 33-5 record and the nation’s best ERA at 0.61. She also recorded 539 strikeouts to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year.

“Angela is one of the most gifted athletes in the game. Her domination on the mound this past year clearly places her among the best in the country,” said Racers President/GM Joey Arrietta. “Her All-American work ethic, tenacity and fierce competitiveness elevate her game beyond words.”

The Racers used its second pick and the No. 11 overall selection on another pitcher. With this selection, the Racers picked University of Hawaii pitcher and first baseman Kate Robinson. As a junior with Hawaii, Robinson finished the year with a 17-1 record and a 2.01 ERA to be named the WAC Pitcher of the Year. She also belted 19 home runs and drove in 72 runs on the season.

“Kate has a dynamic personality that combines the athleticism necessary to dominate on the mound and deliver at the plate,” stated Arrietta. “Her ability to play first base and contribute offensively makes her a threat anytime she is in the game.”

The Racers, who had the most picks in the draft with six, selected two catchers and two infielders with its final four selections. They selected catchers Shannon Doepking (No. 15) from Tennessee and Susan Ogden (No. 18) from Oklahoma. Ogden was a second team All-American selection in 2007 for the Sooners. Joining Doepking and Ogden as Racers draftees was shortstop Angelena Mexicano (No. 17) from the University of Illinois and Brittany Barnes (No. 23) from Georgia Tech.

New England Riptide
Like the two teams before them in the draft, the New England Riptide also selected a pitcher in the first round of the 2008 NPF Senior Draft. With the No. 4 overall pick, the Riptide selected UCLA’s Anjelica Selden.

A native of Vacaville, Calif., Selden finished 2007 with a 17-11 record in the circle, on her way to honorable mention All-Pac 10 honors. She recorded 213 strikeouts on the season to increase her school record to 1,106 passing the likes of Keira Goerl, Lisa Fernandez and Amanda Freed.

“We are looking forward to the 2008 season and are excited that these three great players will be joining our returning players,” said Riptide owner Joe Adlman. “There was so much talent out there this year and that helped make this year’s NPF draft so thrilling and fun to be a part of.”

Also like Philadelphia and Akron, the Riptide used one of their remaining picks to select a catcher. They selected Creighton University’s TJ Eadus with the No. 14 overall pick. With the team’s final selection of 2008 at No. 21, they chose Alabama utility player Jordan Praytor.

Rockford Thunder
The Rockford Thunder held the second most picks in the draft with five, including the No. 5 overall selection. Knowing that the team was probably going to lose last year’s starting catcher and offensive threat Mackenzie Vandergeest, the Thunder knew they would need to draft a top catcher, and they did just that by selecting Georgia Tech’s Savannah Brown.

The Yellow Jacket starting catcher has the ability to come in and make an immediate impact, both behind the plate and at it offensively for the Thunder. As a junior, Brown finished second in the nation in RBIs with 76, a total that set the new ACC single-season record. She enters the 2008 season fifth in conference history in home runs (37) and sixth in RBIs (157).

“We’re extremely excited about the addition of Savannah to the Thunder,” said Thunder GM Aaron M. Moore. “Replacing a player of Vandergeest’s talent is not going to be easy, but we feel like Savannah is going to be extremely productive in all phases of the game.”

Rockford continued with the theme of this year’s draft when they selected Oklahoma pitcher and 2007 NFCA All-American and Co-Big 12 Pitcher of the Lauren Eckermann with the No. 12 pick in the draft. With picks No. 13, No. 19 and 20 the Thunder’s attention went back to run producers, as they selected Tennessee first baseman Tonya Callahan, DePaul utility player Sandy Vojik and Tennessee Tech shortstop Beth Boden, respectively.

“This year’s draft was very productive for the team,” said Moore. “We had some major holes to fill, especially offensively, and we feel like we’ve improved our club in several different areas. The players we drafted are going to be asked to come in and make an immediate impact, so we’re definitely excited.”

Washington Glory 
The Glory, last year’s NPF Champion, used the final pick (No. 6 overall) of the first round to select University of Arizona ace pitcher Taryne Mowatt.

Mowatt04 web.jpgMowatt, who poured in one of the greatest performances in WCWS history, finished the 2007 season with a 42-12 record and a 1.46 ERA. Her efforts in the circle helped lead the Wildcats to back-to-back National Championships. Followed the 2007 season, Mowatt received recognition as the WCWS Most Outstanding Player, NFCA second-team All-American and was a two-time ESPY Award winner as the Best Female Athlete and Best College Female Athlete.

“Mowatt is a fantastic pitcher and a great role model for young athletes,” stated Glory Head Coach Carie Dever-Boaz. “She stole the hearts of millions last year during the 2007 Women’s College World Series and then again at the ESPY’s. I believe Taryne will complete what is already one of the best pitching staffs in the league.”

Washington used its next pick, the No. 16 overall selection, on Virginia native Courtney Bures. Bures, who is originally from Haymarket, Va., was a first team All-SEC selection in 2007 at Mississippi State. She finished first or second on the team in several categories, including RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

“Bures is a hometown girl that has an incredible glove up the middle,” said Dever-Boaz. “Courtney hits the ball extremely well, and has great speed on the base paths that will keep us running and putting pressure on our competition.”

The Glory held the final overall selection in the draft and used that pick on Oregon State utility player Cambria Miranda.

“Once again, I feel we were incredibly blessed in the NCAA draft. I believe these three ladies will round out our squad perfectly and put us in a great position to defend our NPF championship,” concluded Paul Wilson, Glory Owner & General Manager.

Chicago Bandits 
Chicago was the only team in the league not to hold a first-round selection or select a pitcher in the draft, but they did add some much-needed depth at catcher with the No. 7 overall pick. With this pick, the Bandits selected Marshall University’s big-hitting catcher Rachel Folden.

Folden, who is originally from Baldwin Park, Calif., enters her senior season at Marshall as the school’s all-time leader in home runs (41) and RBIs (163) and is second in several other categories, including doubles and total bases.

“Rachel is someone I’ve been keeping an eye on for three years since she played at Marshall with former Bandits Amanda and Jessica (Williams),” said Bandits owner Bill Conroy. “The Williams sisters highly recommended Folden as a potential player for Chicago. She’s a two-time All-American selection and a USA Top 50 Player of the Year candidate, and she is a workhorse behind the plate.”

In addition to the No. 7 overall pick, Chicago also held the No. 9 and No. 10 overall picks in the 2008 NPF Senior Draft. With the No. 9 selection, the Bandits selected Emily Nichols, a catcher from the University of Iowa. And with the team’s next selection, they selected Aileen Morales, a shortstop from Georgia Tech University.

“These are the three players I targeted and hoped to land. Fortunately, everything fell our way and I was able to draft the three players that fit our needs the best.”

The SEC, Big XII, ACC and Pac-10 conferences each had four players selected in the draft, while the Big 10 had three selections. Georgia Tech and Oklahoma tied for school honors with each school having three players selected.

Pitching, again, showed its priority and importance to the game of fastpitch as seven pitchers were chosen overall. There were also seven catchers and six potential middle infielders selected in the 2008 NPF Senior Draft.

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.

National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. 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).

2008 NPF Senior Draft Results
Round 1
1 (1) – Philadelphia Force – Katie Burkhart, Pitcher, Arizona State
2 (2) – Philadelphia Force – Megan Gibson, Pitcher, Texas A&M
3 (3) – Akron Racers – Angela Tincher, Pitcher, Virginia Tech
4 (4) – New England Riptide – Anjelica Selden, Pitcher, UCLA
5 (5) – Rockford Thunder – Savannah Brown, Catcher, Georgia Tech
6 (6) – Washington Glory – Taryne Mowatt, Pitcher, Arizona

Round 2
1 (7) – Chicago Bandits – Rachel Folden, Catcher, Marshall
2 (8) – Philadelphia Force – Savannah Long, Infielder, Oklahoma
3 (9) – Chicago Bandits – Emily Nichols, Catcher, Iowa
4 (10) – Chicago Bandits – Aileen Morales, Shortstop, Georgia Tech
5 (11) – Akron Racers – Kate Robinson, Pitcher/First Base, Hawaii
6 (12) – Rockford Thunder – Lauren Eckermann, Pitcher, Oklahoma

Round 3
1 (13) – Rockford Thunder – Tonya Callahan, First Base, Tennessee
2 (14) – New England Riptide – TJ Eadus, Catcher, Creighton
3 (15) – Akron Racers – Shannon Doepking, Catcher, Tennessee
4 (16) – Washington Glory – Courtney Bures, Shortstop, Mississippi State
5 (17) – Akron Racers – Angelena Mexicano, Shortstop, Illinois
6 (18) – Akron Racers – Susan Ogden, Catcher, Oklahoma

Round 4
1 (19) – Rockford Thunder – Sandy Vojik, Utility, DePaul
2 (20) – Rockford Thunder – Beth Boden, Shortstop, Tennessee Tech
3 (21) – Philadelphia Force – Tory Yamaguchi, Catcher, Indiana
4 (22) – New England Riptide – Jordan Praytor, Utility, Alabama
5 (23) – Akron Racers – Brittany Barnes, Infielder, Georgia Tech
6 (24) – Washington Glory – Cambria Miranda, Utility, Oregon State

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