DENVER – National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) and its seven affiliate teams held the annual Senior Draft on Wednesday night, with each team taking at least three college seniors in the four-round affair.
Due to NCAA regulations, an active college senior-athlete may not sign with her respective franchise until her 2006 college season is finished. For players selected in the Senior Draft, they will be permitted to pursue any available roster spot on their assigned team after completing their college season. Draft rights acquired in Wednesday’s draft will expire August 31, 2006.
In a sport that is typically dominated by the ladies in the circle, NPF teams selected seven pitchers in the 30-player draft. The Pac-10 also showed its collegiate dominance as a total of 10 athletes from the conference were selected.
Following is a recap of each team’s top picks and a look at what they might bring to each respective team should they choose to sign following the conclusion of their college career.
Connecticut Brakettes: As one of two expansion teams for the 2006 season, the Connecticut Brakettes used their top pick to draft former Olympian and current Texas Longhorn Cat Osterman.
The Brakettes are extremely familiar with the two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, as she has been on the organization’s amateur team roster for the last five seasons.
Osterman, who is 3-0 this season, has compiled a 101-21 career record at Texas. The 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher from Houston, TX, has 1,676 career strikeouts and a 0.53 ERA in 136 appearances and 838.2 innings pitched.
As a member of the 2004 USA Olympic Team, Osterman was 2-0 in the Sydney games, not allowing a single run in 14 2/3 innings pitched.
“We’re very pleased with our draft choices,” said Manager John Stratton. “While everyone knows what Cat has accomplished, the resumes of our four other draftees are also quite impressive.”
The Brakettes used their next three picks to secure the rights of players from the Pac-10. Connecticut drafted UCLA’s third baseman Andrea Duran with the third overall pick in the draft followed by Adrienne Alo, utility player from Oregon State in the second round and the University of Washington’s outfielder, Aimee Minor in the third. The Brakettes concluded its first draft by taking Stephanie Hill, a utility player from Louisiana State, in the fourth round.
Philadelphia Force: Philadelphia, also an expansion team for the 2006 season, decided to bring home some local talent with the second overall selection. The Force chose the Stephanie Van Brakle, a pitcher from the University of Alabama with their inaugural pick.
The Chambersburg, Pa. native will not only be looked to for wins in the circle, but also a presence at the plate.
Van Brakle, a 2005 NFCA second-team All-American selection, has blasted 34 career home runs and driven in 110 more. In her Crimson Tide career, Van Brakle is 69-24 in the circle, recording a 1.65 era and 768 strikeouts.
“Stephanie has been a great presence on the mound and in the lineup for four years at Alabama and will no doubt do the same for the Philadelphia Force,” said Patrick Murphy, University of Alabama head coach. “As a native Pennsylvanian, Steph will be a great addition to the Pennsylvania professional sports scene.”
With their second and third choices, Philadelphia chose outfielders in Sarah Fekete (Tennessee) and Harmony Schwethelm (Baylor), respectively. The Force took catcher/ first baseman Haley Woods from Cal-Berkeley with their fourth choice, and they concluded their selections with Courtnay Foster, a pitcher from Northwestern University.
New England Riptide: The Riptide, runners-up from the 2004 Championship, took four players in the four-round draft on Wednesday, selecting University of Oklahoma centerfielder Kristin Vesely as its top choice.
Vesely, the fourth overall selection, is considered by many as one of the top players in all of Division I softball. The speedy lefty was a semi-finalist for USA Softball’s player of the year award last season and returns to the OU lineup in 2006 after bringing home several honors in 2005. Two of Vesely’s ’05 awards included being named second-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12.
As a Sooner, Vesely has hit .344 for her career and has collected 208 hits. She has also swiped 51 bases in 65 attempts.
“We’re very happy with all our draft selections,” said Riptide owner Joe Adlman. “We’re clearly adding speed and offensive punch to this year’s line-up.“
New England’s other 2006 draft choices include Kristi Durant, a third baseman/catcher from Tennessee, South Florida’s Tiffany Stewart who plays outfield and Lisa Allen, a catcher from Oregon State.
Arizona Heat: The Arizona Heat stayed relatively close to home with their selections, as they drafted two collegiate players that play in the state.
Probably the most recognizable name in the draft, besides Connecticut’s number one pick in Osterman, is Arizona’s top choice Alicia Hollowell. Hollowell, who also has national team experience as a member of Team USA in 2005, currently sits fifth on the NCAA all-time strikeout list with 1,384 for her career. She is currently 13th in career wins with 115.
As a member of the No. 3 ranked Arizona Wildcats, Hollowell has a career record of 115-18 and has yielded a minuscule ERA of 0.86. So far this season, the Arizona ace is 3-0 and has allowed just one hit in 18 innings.
With their other two choices, the Heat drafted players out of the Pac-10 Conference. In the third round, the Heat drafted Arizona State ace Desiree Serrano. As a four-year starter for the Sun Devils, Serrano has amassed 40 wins and is currently third all-time in strikeouts with 563. The Heat’s fourth round pick, Lauren Lappin, infielder/catcher out of Stanford, is one of the best players in the country. She has started all four years for the Cardinal and has twice been selected to the All-American team. Lappin was selected as the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and was an alternate on the 2004 Olympic Team.
Akron Racers: After guiding the Michigan Wolverines to the 2005 NCAA National Championship, pitcher Jennie Ritter was taken as the top draft pick for the Akron Racers. The Akron Racers, winners of the 2005 NPF Championship, took Ritter as the sixth overall selection in the 2006 draft.
The Dexter, Mich. native sits near the top of several lists in the Wolverines record book, including the single-season strikeout leader with 415 during the Big Blue’s championship season. Ritter also became just the third pitcher in Michigan history to record 30 wins in a season, with 38 games won last year.
The Racers took two players from each coast with its remaining four picks. With its second and fourth selections, the Racers chose players that play college ball in California. Akron took second baseman Caitlin Benyi (UCLA) with the eighth overall pick and Lindsay James, an outfielder from Cal-Berkeley with the 22nd selection. Virginia’s Sara Larquier (3B) and Ashley Smith, a catcher from South Carolina rounded out the Racers selections.
“We are excited about the prospect of adding these five talented players to the 2006 Racers roster,” said Joey Arrietta, Owner of the Racers. “They have played for some of the best coaches in the business and that, to me, makes them all valuable assets to our organization. Our bid to defend our NPF Title depends on selecting the right players to add to our richly talented roster. Hands down, we did that last night.”
Texas Thunder: The Texas Thunder, 2004 regular season champions, used three of its Wednesday selections to choose possible battery combinations. Texas used the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Senior Draft to choose UCLA’s catching prospect Emily Zaplatosch.
Pitchers that were selected by the Thunder included Kansas’ Serena Settlemier and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Krystal Lewallen, who was taken with the 21st overall selection.
Zaplatosch, a 5-6 catcher/first baseman from Scottsdale, Ariz., has helped the No. 2 ranked Bruins get off to a 5-1 start. She has done her share of hitting early in the season, hitting .524 on the young season with 11 hits in 21 at-bats. Last season, Zaplatosch hit .305 for the Bruins while driving in 41 runs and collecting 54 hits in 177 at-bats.
The Thunder decided to stay close to home with its final selection, as they took University of Texas outfielder Tina Boutelle in the fourth round.
Chicago Bandits: The Bandits selected University of Iowa infielder Stacy May with its first choice. May comes to a Chicago team that finished last season with a 41-7 record and was crowned 2005 NPF regular season champions.
As a member of the Hawkeyes softball team, May has been a critical piece to the Iowa offense, with a career batting average of .338. She has collected 200 hits in her three-years at Iowa, with more than one-fourth (57) of them going for extra bases.
“We traded down with New England and we were still able to get the player we’ve been looking for since November in Stacy May,” said Bandits owner Bill Conroy. “We have heard nothing but good things about Stacy from people like former Olympian Michelle Venturella. She can play third base and shortstop and we feel she’ll be a good fit with our organization.”
The Bandits ventured into familiar water when they selected identical twins Amanda (OF) and Jessica Williams (SS) from Marshall University in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. The Williams’ will be the second set of identical twins to play for the Bandits in their two seasons of existence. The Viefhaus twins played last season in Chicago. Unfortunately for the Bandits, the Viefhaus twins will both be getting married this summer and have chosen to hang up their cleats.
Chicago’s final selection, also in the fourth round, is Missy Beseres, a pitcher from Penn State. Beseres was taken four choices ahead of Jessica Williams in the final round.
“We look forward to an exciting season and hope to include these outstanding seniors in each team’s line-up which will be finalized following the Women’s College World Series,” stated league president, Patrick Linden. In the meantime, the teams continue to build support at the local level with innovative sponsor programs, group and season ticket promotions and through community-based events such as clinics and appearances.
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).
Press Contact: Joey Arrietta (330) 376-8188