ROSEMONT, Ill. – May 29, 2014 - Just hours before the Bandits take the field for Opening Day 2014, the team announced it has finalized contracts with six players, including its three remaining draft picks and three free agents. All six players will be with the team in Akron tonight for the opening game.
Estela Pinon, who was the team’s first round (No. 4 overall) selection in the 2014 NPF Draft presented by BowNet, played her college ball at the University of Arizona. She pitched for the Wildcats for two seasons after transferring from Yavapai College.
“I’m excited to start my new journey with the Chicago Bandits and meeting my new family,” stated Pinon. “I’m looking forward to a great season competing with the very best softball players in the world.”
Pinon, 22, finished her career with a record of 32-17 for the Wildcats. In her two seasons, she appeared in 70 games and made starts in 50 of them. In 288 1/3 innings for Arizona, Pinon struck out 241 hitters.
“Stela is going to be a nice addition to our pitching staff,” said Bandits GM Aaron M. Moore. “She will complement our current staff really well and has the versatility to either start games or come in to the game in a relief role; both of which will be important very important to our success this season.”
The Bandits also have signed right-handed pitcher and No. 5 overall draft selection Sara Moulton to the 2014 roster. Moulton, who is originally from Eagan, Minn., was a four-year letter winner and four-time All-Big Ten selection at the University of Minnesota. Her senior season for the Gophers was arguably the best of her college career as she received several honors, including NFCA Second Team All-American and she was a Top 25 Finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the year award.
“I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to play with the Chicago Bandits this summer,” said Moulton. “I look forward to playing at the highest level and competing everyday wearing black and orange!”
Moulton was the conference leader in wins with 27 and strikeouts with 244. She finished her career at Minnesota with a 112-50 record, holding the program records for wins, appearances (178), innings pitched (1,017), complete games (108), shutouts (47), and strikeouts (1,184).
“Sara is really a great addition to the Bandits roster,” said Moore. “She picked up wins against some great college team this season and she has a bulldog type personality when in the circle.
“Her ability to induce ground ball outs will be huge for the transition to the pro circuit. She reminds us a little of Andi (Williamson) with her ability to throw down in the zone. Our infielders should love it!”
The final draft pick added to the roster was Cheyenne Coyle, who played collegiately at Arizona State and Florida. Coyle was drafted by the Bandits in the 4th round (No. 13 overall) in the 2014 NPF Draft.
In her first season with the Sun Devils, Coyle was named first team All-Pac 12 after leading the conference in home runs with 20. She was also named first team NFCA All Region and second team All American.
“Feeling extremely blessed to be a part of the Bandit family,” exclaimed Coyle. “I’m so happy that I can continue playing softball with and against the best softball players in the country. “I’m looking forward to the season and learning more about the game from my fellow teammates.”
Coyle, 22, burst onto the national scene during her freshman season at Florida where she hit .318 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. Through her first three years of college softball, she had racked up 47 home runs and 160 runs batted in.
“This is a big signing for the Bandits,” said Moore. “Cheyenne is a gifted infielder and will be asked to contribute in a big way this season for the Bandits. There is a chance she’ll see time at second, short and third, as well as DP this season.
“She is also another solid, right handed bat that we’ll need in the lineup when we face the likes of Keilani Ricketts and Cat Osterman.”
Also joining the Bandits by way of open tryouts are pitcher Kirsten Verdun and infielder Natalie Hernandez.
Verdun, who played collegiately at DePaul and is from Coal City, Ill., is a pitcher/first baseman and could see time at both for the Bandits this season. She was recently named second team NFCA All-American for the second time in her decorated Blue Demon career.
“I am very fortunate to have gotten this opportunity and to be able to continue my softball career,” Verdun said. “This is really the chance of a lifetime and I’m looking forward to contributing to this team as soon as possible.”
She was a dual threat for DePaul throughout her career. She became the only pitcher in school history to accumulate 900 innings pitched, 900 strikeouts and 100 wins. Verdun also hit .348 on the season with seven home runs and 23 RBIs; and she only struck out 15 times in 204 plate appearances.
“Kirsten is someone we liked during our draft preparations as well,” said Moore. “She is a very talented player and has the ability to help this team out in a lot of different ways. “She reminds us of Nikki Nemitz in the sense that she can win games for you in the circle and at the plate!”
Hernandez played her college ball at the University of Illinois-Chicago for head coach Michelle Venturella and former Bandit pitcher Eileen Canney. Hernandez finished her Flames career on the all-time records list in several categories, including tenth in career batting average at .347 and eighth in home runs with 24.
“Joining the Bandits has been a goal of mind since I was younger,” said Hernandez. “Since my college coach was a former Olympian (Venturella) and the other was a former Bandit, they prepared me for this opportunity. “Since I have been a part of this team, it’s been everything I expected and more!”
Hernandez had her best collegiate season in 2014 when she hit .413 with a .429 on base percentage. She also clubbed 12 home runs and drove in 40, primarily out of the leadoff spot, for the Flames en route to being named first team All-Horizon League.
“Natalie is another player we’ve been interested in for some time,” said Moore. “Coach V and Eileen both spoke very highly of her and ability to play at this level and she has certainly shown she belongs here.
“She is another player that will be asked to fill multiple roles throughout the season. And she is another right-handed hitter we can look to in certain situations.”
In addition to the three draft picks and two tryout selections, the Bandits have also signed free agent pitcher Ellen Renfroe.
Renfroe was a four-year player for the University of Tennessee program where she compiled a record of 102-25. With her 245 strikeouts this season, she was able to pass the 1,000 strikeout milestone for her career.
“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to join the Chicago Bandits, and to continue to play the sport I love at a new level,” said Renfroe. “I can’t wait to start the season with my team and to get to know them and the fans of the Bandits.”
During her collegiate career at Tennessee, Renfroe had a career batting average against of .190 and a career ERA of 1.65. Renfroe won at least 19 games every season for the Volunteers, including a career-high 30 in 2014.
Renfroe’s older sister, Ivy, played in the NPF last season for the Akron Racers. “We are thrilled to have Ellen join the Bandits,” said Moore. “At draft time, we didn’t think this would be a possibility and now that it has happened, we are definitely excited.
“Ellen will fit in great with the Bandits and our fans should really enjoy having her around. With the addition of Ellen, Kirsten, Estela and Sara in the last 48 hours, we have made some really solid additions to our pitching staff.”
The Bandits open the season tonight in Akron as they begin a two-game road trip against the Racers. The home opener is set for Saturday, May 31 at 7:35 p.m. when the Bandits host Akron at The Ballpark at Rosemont. Single-game tickets for all 2014 home games, including the home opener and exhibition game are on sale now.
For more information about the Chicago Bandits, visit www.chicagobandits.com or call the front office at 877-722-6348.
Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch players to further their careers at a professional level, and the roster has included such names as Jennie Finch, Stacy May-Johnson and Monica Abbott. The two-time NPF Champions play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the country built for a women's professional team. The 2014 season will be the Bandits 10th season in the NPF.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. 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 of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball since 2002.