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National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Names All-NPF Team

By:
DENVER – As five teams battled for the final three play-off spots over the weekend, NPF allowed the spotlight to shine locally and gave team owners, staff and fans time to honor players selected to the 2007 All-NPF Team in their hometown markets.

The league selected 12 “First-Team” players and six “At-Large” selections to round out the 18-player roster. Included on the team are members from all six NPF franchises.

First place Washington Glory stand-outs include Amber Jackson (Shortstop), Oli Keohohou (At-Large), Nichole Thompson (At-Large), Desiree Serrano (Pitcher), and Sarah Pauly (Pitcher).

Jackson, in her rookie season, has led the league in just about every offensive category throughout the year and was also the Glory’s mainstay at shortstop. Amber is second in the league in batting average at .372 and leads the league in homeruns at 15; RBI’s at 38 and amassed a league leading slugging percentage of .814.

Keohohou had no errors at first base this season for the Glory in addition to a tremendous year offensively. At the plate Oli ranked 6th in on base percentage with .440 and was 2nd in slugging percentage with .667 while hitting 11 home runs, the second most in the league.

Thompson had a great season in the field at second base and hit .298 for the season with 22 RBI’s, 10 stolen bases, and 22 runs scored. Nichole also had very strong on-base and slugging percentages at .387 and .500 respectively.

Serrano was absolutely stellar in the circle this year. Her 18 wins set an all-time NPF record for the regular season. Desiree also ranked 1st in total innings at 140.1 while only allowing an astonishingly low 20 walks during her 22 appearances.

Pauly had an exceptional season in the circle for the Glory with 13 wins and only 6 losses. Sarah struck out 122 batters, ranking her second in the league while her 1.38 ERA ranked third best in the NPF.

The 2007 NPF Champion New England Riptide earned 3rd place over the weekend and had two players selected to the team, including Shanel Scott for Outfield and Eileen Canney for Pitcher.

Scott leads set the NPF all time single season stolen base record with 34 (in 37 attempts) eclipsing Kristin Zaleski’s previous record on the last day of the season (It should be noted, too, that the 2005 season was comprised of 48 games, the 2007 season, 44). This is not surprising considering that Scott in her final season at Oklahoma State last spring, led the nation in stolen bases with 51. Scott has been the spark plug of the Riptide offence for most of the season, batting .327. Her on base percentage of .457 is third in the league and her 28 runs scored ranks second. Scott also lead the league in runs scored with 33. An extremely disciplined hitter Scott can drive pitchers crazy fouling off their best pitches before drawing a walk. Her 25 bases on balls ranks fifth in the league.

Canney came to the Riptide in June fresh from an appearance in the College World Series having been the number two overall pick in the NPF draft. Canney justified her high pick as she picked up in New England where she left off at Northwestern compiling a 9-6 record for the Riptide, winning important games down the stretch. Additionally, Canney lead the league in strikeouts with 137 in 109 innings pitched and also had the league’s lowest ERA at 1.16. A power pitcher, Canney was among the hardest pitchers to hit this year, giving up two homeruns (fewest among pitchers with 70 or more innings pitched), six doubles and no triples.

The Akron Racers, who clinched a 2nd place playoff spot over the weekend contributed three players including Veronica Wootson, Norrelle Dickson and Kristen Butler in 2nd Base, 3rd Base and At-Large positions, respectively.

Wootson, the diminutive second baseman is an un-drafted free agent who signed a contract to play for the Racers just prior to the start of spring training. Wootson clearly was the best leadoff hitter in the league having rocketed the Racers to victories with her surprising burst of power and her stellar defense. Wootson blasted nine homeruns, four doubles and collected 46 hits in 148 official at-bats for a .534 slugging percentage and a .311 average. The Florida State grad has been among the offensive league leaders since day one scoring 27 runs and chipping in 27 RBI for the second place Racers. She has been dangerous on the base paths having swiped 10 bases while posting a .329 on-base percentage. Wootson had seven game-winning hits three of which were homeruns.

Dickson, the Oklahoma First-Team All-American third baseman, continued to display both offensively and defensively her unique ability to play the game at any level. Dickson, currently the NPF’s top hitter, has posted 53 hits in 137 official at bats. Her remarkable .387 average includes 20 runs scored, six RBI and a .436 on-base percentage. The Racers’ slap hitter grabbed 13 stolen bases and remains one on the leagues most dangerous players to contain. Defensively, Dickson committed only six errors in the hot corner and makes the most difficult plays appear routine.

Butler, the Racers second-year catcher, has proven that she can control the game from her management of the talented Racers’ pitching staff to her ability to pick-off runners at any base. Butler, an at-large selection, succeeded 16 times mowing down runners and catching them napping on the bases. The Florida Gator’s .283 batting average includes 13 runs scored, 29 RBI, five doubles and nine homeruns. Butler is the only player in the league to have blasted two grand slams. Butler has posted 34 hits in 120 at-bats while carrying a stellar .550 slugging percentage.

The Philadelphia Force, who just missed a playoff spot in an extra innings game with the Thunder (that then forced a tie-breaker in the standings), had four players named to the All-NPF Team including Kellie Wilkerson (1st Base), Sharonda McDonald (Outfield), Kristina Thorson (Pitcher) and Chelsea Spencer (At-Large).

Once again, Wilkerson has shown that she can be an offensive force. Switching between first base and designated player throughout the year, Wilkerson powered five home runs this year for the Force, tied for the team lead. She led the league in base on balls and was 2nd in OB%. Wilkerson also has team highs in walks with 32 and runs batted in with 18 while posting a .321 batting average. She spent last year on the Connecticut Brakettes but has fit in beautifully with the Philadelphia Force.

Fresh off her College World Series team with Texas A & M, McDonald joined the Force back in June, adding speed and defensive skills to the lineup. McDonald had the 4th best batting average in the league and led the Force in stolen bases with 13 and posted a batting average of .331. She is usually known for sprinting out of the batters box while the ball and bat are still in the air.

Coming from a prestigious softball school in Cal-Berkeley, Thorson’s pitching command and amazing strikeout ratio helped her rise to the top early on this season. Thorson (14-5) pitched 12 complete games this season, including a no-hitter against Team China. Pitching 116.2 innings, Thorson only gave up 20 earned runs with a 1.22 earned run average, which earned her 2nd in the NPF.

Chelsea Spencer is probably one of the most consistent shortstops in National Pro Fastpitch. Spencer led the league in batting average earlier in the 2007 season and ended with a .333 and 3rd place overall. With five home runs, she tied for the team lead. Spencer has shown her speed on the base paths too, leading the team in triples with three and drawing 15 walks. A third-year veteran in the league, Spencer continues to make an impact with the Force and throughout the NPF.

While in hot pursuit of the coveted 4th playoff position, the Rockford Thunder honored three players selected to the team, including Kristen Zaleski (Outfield), Mackenzie Vandergeest (Catcher) and Serena Settlemier (At-Large).

For Zaleski, this is the third consecutive season that she has been named to the All-NPF Team as one of the leagues top outfielders. In 2005, she also was named the NPF League MVP. Not including exhibition games, Zaleski is hitting .328, collecting 45 hits in 137 at-bats. She is in the top seven in the league in plate appearances with 160 (No. 1), triples with 3 (No. 2), hits (No. 3), at-bats (T-2nd), walks with 21 (No. 5), batting average (No. 5) and runs scored with 25 (T-4th). Zaleski also has a perfect fielding percentage this season, having not committed an error to go with her five outfield assists.

Vandergeest, a player who is in her third year in the league, is having a career year to be named the All-NPF catcher. She has reached career highs in several offensive categories, including homeruns, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage and walks. Within the league leaders, Vandergeest is ranked tied for No. 2 in walks with 26, tied for No. 3 in doubles with five, No. 5 in on-base percentage at .444%, No. 6 in homeruns with seven and tied for No. 5 in RBIs with 26. She has also thrown out 14 would be base stealers.

For Settlemier it is also her first season on the All-NPF Team. She made this year’s team as the final at-large selection, which actually came down to a league-wide vote. During much of the 2007 season Settlemier has been the team’s ace pitcher. Her record of 10-8 is not a good enough indicator of how well she has pitched this season. She could easily be 12-6 or 13-5 if the offense would have produced a couple of more runs in her support. Settlemier also finds herself in the top 10 in several categories within the league leaders. She is tied for No. 1 in complete games with 12, No. 2 in innings pitched (125.0), batters faced (486) and at-bats against with 444, No. 6 in ERA at 1.47, No. 5 in wins with 10 and games started with 14 and No. 8 in strikeouts with 85.

Jaime Clark is a three time All-NPF team member selected in an At-Large position for her outstanding season with the Chicago Bandits. She leads the Bandits in runs batted with four and homeruns with six. Clark is tied for second on the team in batting average with .303. She is currently among the National Professional Fastpitch league leaders in batting average (No.11), homeruns (T-7th) and RBIs (No.7). In 2006, Clark knocked in a career high 32 RBI. She also led the team in triples with three and homeruns with five. Clark was a member of the 2004 Olympic gold medal winning team.

The exciting play-off contention weekend leads right into next weekend as NPF concludes its 2007 season with the Washington Glory, Akron Racers, New England Riptide and Rockford Thunder competing for the coveted Cowles Cup at the NPF Championship Series. The double elimination championship games begin Friday, August 24 at Sunset Point Park in Kimberly, WI. NPF looks forward to honoring the All-NPF Team, NPF Award winners and the Championship Series Teams throughout the Championship Series weekend starting with a 7 pm Meet-and-Greet at Tanner's in Kimberly.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.cardinalyouthsoftball.com. A series pass is just $35. Passes for only Friday or Saturday action is $15. Sunday passes are $25.

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).


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