Denver, CO – After almost three months of competition and nearly 300 games league-wide the bracket is set for the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship Series to be held this August 21–24 in Kimberly, Wis.
The Chicago Bandits (32-16), Philadelphia Force (31-17) and Washington Glory (30-18) were all able to punch their ticket to Kimberly two weekends ago because of solid play, but the fourth spot came down to the final Saturday of the season. The other three teams were separated by just one game heading into the final weekend of play, but it was the New England Riptide (22-26) that prevailed to take the fourth seed in the postseason.
For the Glory and Riptide, Kimberly and the field at Sunset Point Park will be a comfortable setting as each team qualified for the playoffs last season. The Bandits and Force will be new to Kimberly after a complete turnaround from the 2007 season where both failed to make the postseason.
Philadelphia and Chicago each made the biggest jumps in the league, going from worst to first in just one season. Chicago won nine more games and the Force seven to finish first and second in the league, respectively.
The first game of the playoffs will feature the regular season champion Chicago Bandits and the New England Riptide at 6 p.m. CDT. Friday’s second game will feature East Coast rivals, the Force and Glory.
In addition to the scheduled games, NPF and Cardinal Youth Softball, will also host its first-ever FanFest event on Thursday, August 21. Fans that purchase the weekend NPF Championship Series passes are admitted free to the event. Fans can also purchase tickets at the gate for $5/each. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and the day will include the conclusion of the Battle of the Bats homerun hitting challenge, as well as other fan-friendly activities including a live band, player autographs, celebrity homerun derby, league-wide “Play Clean” pledge in conjunction with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and NPF Awards presentation.
Players to Watch
Chicago Bandits: The players to watch for Chicago will all look to provide the offense for the Bandits. Sluggers Stacy May, Jaime Clark and Rachel Folden carried the Bandits to a league-best 32 wins. May was arguably the best player in the league this season and she finished the year as the only player to be in the top five in batting average (2nd - .391), homeruns (T1st – 13) and RBIs (T2nd – 34). Clark and Folden also were in the top five in homeruns and RBIs, finishing the season with 11 homeruns each and 38 and 34 RBIs, respectively. For the Bandits in the circle, a pair of 12 game winners in Kristina Thorson and Jessica Sallinger will most likely be given the ball in the team’s first two games of the playoffs.
Philadelphia Force: Two players will be asked to continue the excellence they displayed during the regular season if the Force is going to win their first championship trophy. Kellie Wilkerson will be asked to stay red-hot at the plate. The league’s top hitter in 2008 finished the season with a .407 batting average and she became the first player to top the .400 mark since Kristen Zaleski hit .468 during her 2004 MVP season. In the circle, rookie Katie Burkhart will most likely be asked to win game one and help the Force stay in the winner’s side of the bracket. After being the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, Burkhart didn’t disappoint as she ended the regular season tied for first in wins (13), third in strikeouts (149) and second in ERA at 1.88.
Washington Glory: Much like the Force, Washington will need the combo of great offense and strong pitching if they are to repeat as Cowles Cup Champions. The power-hitting duo of Sara Larquier and Oli Keohohou each finished the season tied for the league lead with 13 home runs and Keohohou tied for fourth in RBIs with 32. In the circle, Sarah Pauly was again the ace of the Glory staff and will be asked to be the ace as well during the postseason. Pauly had stretches of dominance during the regular season on her way to consecutive seasons of more than 100 strikeouts. She was also the league leader in ERA at 1.74.
New England Riptide: The Riptide faced arguably the toughest challenges over the last few weeks just to make the playoffs, but they did so behind veterans Lyndsey Angus, Jackie Pasquerella and Eileen Canney. Both Pasquerella and Angus were top-five hitters in batting average during the regular season at .354 and .315, respectively. Canney, in just her second season in the league, tied for the league lead in wins with 13 and finished second in punch-outs with 150, just seven behind Akron’s Angela Tincher. She also was the fifth-best pitcher in the league in terms of ERA, finishing the season at 2.30.
Playoff Game Schedule
Friday, August 22, 2008
(Probable starting pitchers)
6 p.m. – Game #1
#1 Chicago Bandits (Kristina Thorson, 12-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. #4 New England Riptide (Eileen Canney, 13-10, 2.30 ERA)
8:45 p.m. (approx.) – Game #2
#2 Philadelphia Force (Katie Burkhart, 13-5, 1.88 ERA) vs. #3 Washington Glory (Sarah Pauly, 11-6, 1.74 ERA)
Gametracker will be available at no cost for all games of the NPF Championship Series. To access the Gametracker, fans can log-on to the league website at www.profastpitch.com. In addition to Gametracker, the Championship Game (Game #6 and #7 – if necessary) will be produced by The Softball Channel.com and will be streamed live at mlb.com. Bernie Guenther, who is the voice of NPF on all Fox Sports Net broadcasts, will handle the play-by-play action. Joey Arrietta, GM of the Akron Racers, as well as NPF President/Commissioner Cheri Kempf, will provide color analysis. Games #1 - #5 will be produced and aired on a delayed basis by The Softball Channel.com. All six (or seven) games will also be available for purchase on DVD. More details regarding the delayed broadcast schedule and the Championship Series DVD will be made available following the Championship Series at www.thesoftballchannel.com.
Tickets can be purchased for Friday or Saturday only for $15/each, for Sunday only for $25/each or for the entire weekend for $35/each. All tickets are General Admission and holding seats will not be permitted. To purchase tickets, please click on the NPF Championship Series logo on the www.profastpitch.com website. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate.
Major League Baseball – Official Development Partner
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.
About National Pro Fastpitch
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).