AKRON, Ohio New England manager Ralph Raymond has won numerous championships in his career, and he now has a chance to add another trophy to the mantle for the Riptide. The Riptide pulled off a major upset behind the solid pitching of Megan Matthews and the clutch hitting of Jess Allister, as they defeated the Texas Thunder by a score of 3-0 to advance to the 2004 NPF Championship.
Matthews made her first start of the series in game three, and she made the start of her career. She pitched 4 1/3 innings before allowing a base hit in the game, as she utilized her defense to retire the Thunder. Matthews did not record one strike out in the game. After surrendering the base hit to Amanda Buchholz, Matthews was removed in favor of game one starter Jocelyn Forest. Forest pitched the final 2 2/3 innings without allowing a hit to record the save.
It was the pitching of New England that held the lead, but for the second consecutive night it was the long ball off the bat of a Riptide hitter that put them ahead.
Tara Knudsen, who delivered a grand slam off of Christa Williams, helped give New England the 4-2 victory on Thursday night. On Friday night, it was Allisters turn to drop a bomb. In the top of the first inning she got a pitch she liked from Thunder starting pitcher Peaches James and wrapped it around the left field foul pole for a three-run homer.
After the first inning home run by Allister, James and Williams put six consecutive zeros on the board for the Thunder.
James, who was making her first start and second appearance of the postseason, took the loss for the Thunder. She threw four innings in the contest, allowing three runs on five hits, while striking out six. James was also 0-for-1 at the plate, as she reached on an error by Matthews in the third inning. Williams threw the final three innings of the game and allowed only one hit to New England. She also went 0-for-1 at the plate with a groundout in the fifth inning.
New England now advances to the 2004 NPF Championship Series, where they will play the NY/NJ Juggernaut in a best-of-three game series beginning tomorrow night in Akron. Fans can catch the action live on www.npf.prosportsradio.com beginning at 6:45 p.m. EDT for the Majestic Athletic Pregame Show.
NPF, the worlds premier professional fastpitch softball league for women, consists of six teams located throughout the United States and features former USA Softball Womens National Team members, collegiate All-Americans and all-conference selections. The 2004 season has featured the inaugural NPF All-Star Game, the first-ever NPF Championship Semifinal and the first NPF Championship Series.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Denver, and has been in operation since 1997 under the names Womens Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Womens Pro Softball League (WPSL).