AKRON, Ohio According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Juggernaut means a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path, and that is exactly what happened for NY/NJ Juggernaut against the New England Riptide in the leagues inaugural championship game on Sunday afternoon at Firestone Stadium.
NY/NJ Juggernaut 10, New England Riptide 1 - Box Score
Because inclement weather conditions in Akron forced the originally scheduled three-game championship series to be reformatted to one game, the Juggernaut and Riptide were forced to play one game to decide it all.
The Juggernaut jumped on the Riptide early and often to cruise to a 10-1 behind the offensive explosion of Kellie Wilkerson (Mississippi State) and Lyndsey Klein (UCLA), and the starting pitching of Amanda Scott (Fresno State), who was also named the playoff Most Valuable Player. Scott earned the award after picking up the wins in each of the three Juggernaut games during the playoffs. In her 19 postseason innings pitched, she allowed 13 hits, two earned runs and fanned 21 Racer and Riptide hitters.
Wilkerson, who finished 2-for-3 in the game, including a towering three-run homerun in the top of the second inning was around most of the action all day. She walked and scored in the first, homered in the second and saved three runs with a diving catch to right center field that took away a possible extra base hit from Riptide second baseman Nicole Thompson. For her efforts, she was named the player of the game.
Klein finished the day 3-for-4 with one run batted in, and leadoff hitter Lauren Bauer (Arizona) finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI. In three separate innings the Nauts pushed three runs across the board, and in the fourth the Juggernaut added a single run on an RBI double to left-center field by Wilkerson.
The Riptide seemed outmatched from the beginning of the game, with pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis only lasting 2/3 of an inning in the circle for New England. She gave up a single to Klein and an RBI single to Germaine Fairchild (Tulsa) before being lifted in favor of Jocelyn Forest (Cal-Berkeley) who didnt fair too much better. Forest allowed four Juggernaut runs off of four hits in 2 2/3 innings pitched.
New England did however, have a strong showing to get the 2004 NPF Playoffs in Akron. The team battled to get to 25-35 in the regular season and then they upset the #1 seed Texas Thunder to advance to the championship game.
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).
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Harwell Photography)