Who said there wouldn't be a World Series in Chicago this year?
Starting Thursday night, the nation’s top professional women’s softball teams will be in Rosemont for the 2012 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship Series, aka "The World Series of Softball."
"The Village of Rosemont is honored to host this showcase of world-class women’s athletics in our brand new stadium, which was specifically designed for women's fastpitch softball,” said Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens. “There has been a tremendous groundswell of support for and excitement about women's fastpitch softball in our community, and the NPF Championship Series will only build upon this strong foundation, while also attracting fans from throughout the nation. We are also excited about the opportunity to attract even more new fans of all ages to this great sport.”
With that, the Bandits begin their defense of the Cowles Cup at 6:00 p.m. CDT in Game One of their series against the Carolina Diamonds. Following that game are the number 1-seeded USSSA (FL) Pride vs. the #4-seeded Akron (OH) Racers.
The winners of those two series face off in a best-of-three final series for the championship Saturday and Sunday. A minimum of six games and a maximum of nine games will be played during the series, determined by the number of wins and losses by each team.
Some people call the Ballpark at Rosemont "The House that Jennie Finch Built." Softball moms and dads average around 900 per game in the 1,600-seat ballpark, feasting on jumbo hot dogs, pizzas, and of course, nachos.
Should the Bandits win, it will be their third championship, and their second without their own "Queen of Diamonds," Jennie Finch, whose number was retired in June. Veteran pitcher Monica Abbott replaced Finch as the nominal "face" of the franchise last season.
There are some advantages to a four-team league. Last year, the Bandits finished the season in the middle of the pack. but peaked at the right time, during the 2011 NPF Championship Series in Sulfer Lousiana. This year, the NPF Championship Series features the nation’s four teams and most talented players, including nine Olympic medalists from Team USA and three former Olympians from Team Canada, in a series of games in a playoff/tournament format.
In their last regular-season game on August 18, Alisa Goler had a two-run homer, Amanda Williams, an RBI single that scored Kristen Butler. Shannon Doepking’s sacrifice bunt gave the Bandits a 4-0 lead as Tammy Williams crossed the plate. The Diamonds threatened later in the inning after loading the bases, but the Bandits recovered to get out of the inning and maintain their three run lead. With a solo shot to make it a 5-1 final, Megan Wiggins finished the season with a league-leading 12 home runs.
“The defense made some great plays,” said Nemitz. “They were able help get me out of some jams.”
With that win, the teams finished the season as follows:
Also attending the Series will be Fastpitch legend and former Chicago Bandit Jennie Finch-Daigle, who also helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Other notable guests include NPF Advisory Board Members and NFCA Hall of Famers Sue Enquist and Cindy Bristow.
Finch, who won gold and silver as an Olympian, and whose approach to both softball and marketing herself (Sports columnist Rick Reilly once described her thighs as "a perfect pair.") galvanized the sports world, returned to Rosemont recently as her number--27--was retired.
A Champions Festival, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Sunday, August 26 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, is a leadership event for players, parents and youth coaches. The Festival made its debut at the 2011 NCAA Women’s College World Series. To attend, visit their website at www.championsfestival.com
In their last game of the regular season, the Bandits hosted an over-capacity crowd of 1,642.
ESPN will carry the Final Series of the 2012 NPF Championship Series on Sunday, August 26. Game 2 of the Final Series will be shown live on ESPN3 beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST with Game 3 airing on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST. In the event that Game 2 is the final game in the best of three format that begins Saturday night, Game 2 can be seen at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
"The NPF is so proud to have the opportunity to share our Championship Series Final through national television on ESPN2 for the second year in a row," commented NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf. "We know that the television audience for women's fastpitch softball continues to grow and it's only fitting to deliver that audience the highest level of competition this sport has to offer."