NPF Showdown Undergoes Changes
The last two weeks have brought about significant changes to the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) Showdown between Jennie Finch's Chicago Bandits and Cat Osterman's USSSA Florida Pride. The event, taking place at The Dell Diamond August 12th - 15th, has seen the face of women's softball over the last decade (Finch) announce her retirement at the conclusion of this season, and has seen the face of women's softball in Texas (Osterman) injure her pitching arm. NPF and Florida Pride officials have announced that Danielle Lawrie will be one to pitch in Osterman's place, and although not from Texas, she is about as close to Cat as anyone can come. She is only the second player to receive the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year honor multiple times, joining only Osterman, who received the award three times.
"It's obviously unfortunate for those that wanted to see Cat come back and pitch at home, but the Showdown is still every bit as compelling with Jennie just weeks away from her retirement trying to hold on to the throne against the best young players in the game," said NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf. Although she won't be able to pitch, team officials have indicated that Cat will be at all the games supporting her team and interacting with the fans. "Although she can't pitch, bringing the NPF series back to Central Texas was important to Cat and she wants to be there to try and help promote the games any way she can," Kempf added.
Ironically, it was the site of Softball's World Cup just a few weeks ago - Oklahoma City - where Finch announced her retirement on the eve of the tournament, and Lawrie was awarded her second player of the year award during the event's opening ceremonies.
"This whole career has been way more than I ever even imagined or dreamed," Finch said in an interview with the Associated Press. "The opportunities that I'd be able to enjoy and appreciate and be a part of, it's been incredible." Finch won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and silver four years later in Beijing. Last month she helped the U.S. win its seventh straight world championship.
The 6-foot-2 Finch was much more than a pretty face as she took over for Lisa Fernandez as the most recognized player in a sport enjoying growing popularity. She went 32-0 in her junior year at Arizona, leading the Wildcats to the 2001 Women's College World Series, and would win an NCAA record 60 straight decisions in a span of nearly two years. After that, she combined with the likes of Fernandez and Osterman to make up the world's best pitching rotation through the early part of the decade.
Coupled with her softball skills, Finch's beauty and charm landed her a place in the mainstream. She struck out some of the big leagues' best hitters in appearances on "This Week in Baseball," competed on "Celebrity Apprentice" and made the rounds on late-night talk shows.
At a minimum, Finch is expected to be the starting pitcher in game one of the Showdown (on Thursday), and could come in for relief during the other games as well. When not pitching, she will be in the line-up as a position player during the five-game series. "Right now in my career, it's like I'm having more fun than I've ever had, so it's kind of like, "Man, I can't stop now," she said. "I'm playing first base and pitching and hitting. I feel like I'm almost better than I've ever been. It's like, You're going to walk away like this?"
LAWRIE It was a storied senior season for the Washington Huskie ace, who threw four no-hitters including three perfect games, the latter of which tied for a Pac-10 record. Lawrie amassed a 40-3 record with a 1.00 ERA, 478 strikeouts and just 41 walks in 288.1 innings. She finished the conference season 17-2 with a 1.01 ERA with 212 strikeouts and just 25 walks in 125.1 innings. Lawrie was 21-3 against ranked teams with 266 Ks in 162.1 innings.
She had a nation-best 24 shutouts to break her own single-season school record. Twice during the season she had streaks of 25-straight scoreless innings. Lawrie's 40 wins are second on the single-season charts while her 478 strikeouts are second, behind her own record. She is just one of just four pitchers to ever go over 1,800 career Ks.
In her career, she ranks fourth in NCAA history in shutouts with 1,843 and owns the conference record in the same category. She broke UW's career wins record this year to give her seven of the 10 career pitching records.
Among Lawrie's other accolades for the season, she was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week three times, becoming the first player ever to receive the award more than twice in a single season, and was twice named the NFCA National Player of the Week. Lawrie was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week eight times. She was named First Team All-Pacific Region and First Team All-Pac-10 along with earning the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year award for the second straight season.
GAME TIMES / EVENT INFO
National Pro Fastpitch Series
Chicago Bandits vs. USSSA Florida Pride
Game 1 - Thursday, August 12th - 7:00 (Pitching probables - Finch vs. TBD)
Game 2 - Friday, August 13th - 7:00 (Pitching probables - Canney vs. TBD)
Games 3 & 4 - Saturday, August 14th - *6:00 (Pitching probables - Thorson vs. TBD , Nemitz vs. TBD)
Game 5 - Sunday, August 15th - 2:00 (Pitching probables - Canney vs. TBD)
*Saturday, August 14th is a double-header, second game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
**Pitching match-ups subject to change
Tickets - $10 reserved, $5 general admission
Web - www.rrexpress.com
Phone - (512) 255-BALL
OTHERS TO WATCH AT THE NPF SHOWDOWN:
USSSA FLORIDA PRIDE
- Gold medalist at the Pan American Games (2007) - Two-time World Cup Champion (2006 & 2007) - World Champion (2006) - Olympic Silver medalist (2008)
- Two-time Pac-10 Pitcher of The Year (2007 & 2008) - 2008 1st Draft Pick for the National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) - 2008 Player of the Year for the NPF - 2006 Gold medalist at World University Games in Tainan City, Taiwan
- Two-time Pan American Gold Medalist (2003 & 2007) - Two-time World Cup Champion (2006 & 2007) - Two-time World Champion (2002 & 2006) - Olympic Gold Medalist (2004)
- Olympic Silver Medalist (2008)
- University of Texas Longhorn
- Was behind the plate in each of Cat Osterman's six no-hitters
- All-Big 12 selection as well as being named to the All-Big 12 Tournament team - Named the 2006 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
- Earned the PAC-10 Pitcher of the Year as a senior in 2006
- Named to three consecutive Easton All-American First Team
- Was a three-time first team All PAC-10 selection for Cal
- Was a four-time first-time All-Big Ten selection for the Wolverines
- A career .404 (86-for-213) hitter in Big Ten play
- Hit .346 during her senior season with 13 home runs and 51 runs batted in
- Was a two-time first team All-American (2004-05) and two-time All-Pac 10 Conference selection
- Ranks second on the Golden Bear all-time list in total runs scored with 141 and stolen bases with 61.
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