Even Hollywood movie writers couldn’t write a better script for Thursday’s Opening Night with the Chicago Bandits.
The 2011 home opener for the Bandits has a plethora of storylines, including a brand new stadium, a new head coach and a 21-player roster that includes 12 new faces, along with seven first year players.
The Bandits will be taking on the USSSA Pride, arguably their biggest rival and reigning 2010 NPF World Champions.
All the attention will be focused on who’ll be in the pitching circle for both teams in the opener of this four game series.
Leading the way for the Pride is former Texas Longhorn southpaw Cat Osterman. The lefthander is looking to bounce back after being on the disabled list for the majority of last season. However, she did manage to come through for the Pride in the final game of the championship series against the Bandits, closing out the decisive series-clinching game with five strikeouts.
Osterman’s pitching counterpart will be the Bandits’ Monica Abbott. The 6’3’’ lefty signed with the Bandits during the 2010 offseason and will be looking to build stability atop of Chicago’s rotation.
Abbott’s colligate career at Tennessee (2004-2007) includes numerous accomplishments. The former Lady Vol hurled 23 no-hitters as well as six perfect games. She also holds multiple NCAA and personal records, including victories (189), strikeouts (2,400), shutouts (112), appearances (253) and innings pitched (1,488).
This pitching matchup could very well be one for the ages.
But the excitement of who’ll be wheeling and dealing on the mound isn’t the only reason NPF fans should be licking their chops.
Behind the backstop for the Bandits is their unsung leader catcher Rachel Folden. The former Marshall Thundering Herd backstop is fresh off a spectacular season in which she was named the Worth Offensive Player of the Year and the Co-Winner of the Wilson Home Run Derby. Folden will certainly be looking to follow-up her 2010 season, after finishing with an eye-popping .692 slugging percentage, 12 home runs, 32 RBIs, and 42 hits in 133 at-bats.
Patrolling the outfield for the Bandits is fifth year NPF player Catlin Lever. The centerfielder is expected to get more playing time this season, after spending time with the Canadian National Team before joining the Bandits in July. In limited playing time, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket had 11 hits and swiped four bases.
Leading the offensive charge for the Pride is their shortstop Natasha Watley. In her first season with the Pride, Waltey took little time to make a name for herself by developing into the catalyst of offensive success for the team. The former UCLA Bruin compiled a .402 batting average, a .421 on-base percentage, and was a threat on the base paths with 14 stolen bases.
While Watley was the table setter for the Pride, outfielder Kelly Kretschman was the big-bat that came through in the run-production area. The Indian Harbour Beach, Fl. native led the Pride in several offensive categories, including a team high 25 RBI’s and six homeruns.
Bandits first year head coach Darrick Brown will be looking to make monumental strides in his first season as the team’s skipper. Perhaps what sits atop his list of things that he and the team would like to accomplish is another NPF Championship. The Bandits last championship came in 2008, and adding a second banner in the outfield of Rosemont Stadium is certainly a goal Brown and his players’ hope to accomplish this season.
Speaking of the new stadium, making a trip out to Rosemont to experience NPF action is something any sports fan shouldn’t pass up. The almost $6 million, 2,000-seat facility will be the permanent residence for the Bandits for many years to come.
Be sure to come out this weekend to catch the Bandits as they take on the Pride in some good old NPF action!