WBSC WELCOMES IOC APPROVAL OF YOKOHAMA STADIUM FOR OLYMPIC BASEBALL, SOFTBALL AT TOKYO 2020 GAMES
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) today welcomed the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to approve the Tokyo 2020 venue proposal, which confirmed the 30,000-seat Yokohama Stadium as the main venue for baseball and softball events at the Olympic Games in 2020.
Approximately 40 km/25 miles south of Tokyo and located in the city centre, Yokohama Stadium is the home of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
In July, WBSC officials conducted inspections of Yokohama Stadium as a potential Olympic venue.
“WBSC is delighted with the decision of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to confirm Yokohama Stadium as a main venue,” said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. “Yokohama Stadium with its downtown skyline will provide a spectacular backdrop for Olympic baseball and softball — this is an exciting day that takes baseball and softball one step further on the historic road to Tokyo 2020.”
The ballpark in the city of 3.7 million features a “natural grass” look, but the entire field is fitted with a next generation artificial turf, with dirt cut-outs around the bases, pitcher’s mound and home plate circle.
Collaborations will continue between WBSC and Tokyo 2020 on the tournament format and the venue plan in the Tokyo Metropolitan area and how a game(s) in Fukushima could potentially be realised. Potential final proposals to the IOC are expected in 2017. The venue process for baseball and softball events has been generating a media buzz in Japan and internationally.
WBSC is also working to confirm the Olympic baseball and softball qualification method in early 2017.
LSU Softball to Host NPF’s Pride During Fall Workouts
BATON ROUGE, La. – Coming off of its second-straight Women’s College World Series appearance in June, the LSU softball team got back to work last week with the beginning of fall workouts, as the Tigers will prepare for the 2017 season with a slate of scrimmages against local and regional collegiate teams and highlighted by a visit by the NPF’s USSSA Pride in October.
LSU, returning five positional starters and all three of its starting pitchers from the 2016 team that won 50-plus games for the second consecutive year, will have scrimmages for most of the month of October, with the key matchup against the Pride coming on October 16th at 4 p.m. at Tiger Park.
The Pride finished the National Pro Fastpitch season with a 40-14 record and earned the top seed for the league’s annual championship series for the third consecutive year and fifth time in the last seven seasons. The Pride will be on the second leg of their fall tour series which began in September in the northeast, before moving to the south for the month of October.
The contest between the Tigers and Pride will be free and open to fans, as will the rest of the contests.
NOTE: At 1130 NPF has not reported on the final but readers tell Spy that the Bandits won 2-1.
TUSCALOOSA, AL (August 22, 2016) – The Chicago Bandits never back down from a fight, so when the second game of the NPF Championship Series turned into a slugfest on Monday night. they were in their element.
On the verge of elimination from the best-of-three Cowles Cup series with the USSSA Pride, Chicago banged out an 11-5 victory at Rhoads Stadium to force a winner-take-all game set for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT.
A crowd of 881 – driving the record total attendance for the event to 6,951 and virtually assuring a final tally of more than 7,000 after the final game – was on hand to see the Bandits show their fight to stay alive.
It wasn’t the kind of game anyone expected, but when Chicago catcher Taylor Edwards hit a solo home run to right-center field in the bottom of the third inning, it was like igniting a powder keg.
A game that had been shaping up as a pitchers’ duel opened up to become a shootout between two teams that suddenly looked like they were taking batting practice. In all, the teams combined for 24 hits, including three home runs, a triple and a double.
The Pride (40-14) took the lead in the top of the fourth. NPF Player of the Year Kelly Kretschman, hobbled by a calf injury and playing with a brace on her right leg, got it started with her first hit of the tournament, a single to left field. Kirsti Merritt replaced her as a pinch runner, advanced on a single and a fielder’s choice and scored on a wild pitch. Catcher Chelsea Goodacre singled in another run to make it 2-1.
And it was only the beginning.
Chicago (25-27) responded with five runs in the bottom of the fourth, with third baseman Jill Barrett hitting her first home run of the year, a three-run shot, to go up 6-2.
“I thought we were going to have to scratch about three runs across,” Chicago coach Mike Steuerwald said. “That really sparked us.”
Barrett had hit her first batting-practice homer earlier in the week.
“I didn’t want to show them everything I had at the beginning (of the season),” she joked. “I was really just trying to move the runners over.
The Pride came back with three runs of its own in the top of the fifth, with Goodacre hitting a two-RBI single, to narrow the margin to 6-5, but Chicago wasn’t done. The Bandits plated three runs in the bottom of the inning, with first baseman Megan Blank tripling in a run and scoring on a Brenna Moss single.
“I think we all knew it was going to be tough,” Kretschman said. “They had pretty much battled us for all the year. They battle every inning. It doesn’t really surprise me that our rivalry continues.”
There was still more to come from the Bandits.
Outfielder Brittany Cervantes, the most consistent Chicago hitter in the tournament, crushed a three-run shot to left field in the sixth to up the lead to 11-5. She enters the final game 8-of-15 for the playoffs.
Left-hander Michelle Gascoigne (6-5) allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings for the win. Shelby Turnier threw 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits with two strikeouts and no walks, for her first save.
Chicago Bandits trump former ace but fall to USSSA Pride in NPF championship series opener
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The USSSA Pride are one win from earning a third National Pro Fastpitch championship in the past four seasons. But if the league’s signature franchise is poised to be the story of the moment Monday at Rhoads Stadium, the story Sunday was the team it beat.
That with a season on the line, the Chicago Bandits can be down but not out.
That was the case when the sport’s greatest pitcher of the moment left for a landmark free-agent offer this spring. Monica Abbott, who became the sport’s first million-dollar player by signing a five-year contract with the Houston-area Scrap Yard Dawgs, brought an era to an end in Chicago with her exit. The road outside their softball-only stadium is named for former Bandits ace Jennie Finch, but it’s Abbott who led the team to its greatest glory.
Yet her departure didn’t end her former team.
With a place in Sunday night’s championship series opener on the line in an elimination game, and Abbott starting for the opposition for the third day in a row, the third-seeded Bandits collectively outdueled their former ace and her second-seeded teammates for a 2-1 win.
That meant their season lives on even after a 3-1 loss against the Pride later in the day, the first game of a best-of-three championship round.
“The thing I love about this group is there’s not an excuse,” Bandits coach Michael Steuerwald said. “We lost Monica. So what? We lost [other key veterans]. So what? We’re young, we start a lot of rookies some days. So what? We’re starting a [former Division II pitcher] today. So what?
“There’s never really an excuse for this group.”
Inclement weather in the Tuscaloosa area a day earlier forced changes to the schedule. Neither finalist in the championship series had been decided when the day began. The Pride played first and beat the Akron Racers 6-2 to sweep that best-of-three semifinal series. That left the Bandits and Dawgs to play a winner-take-all game after splitting the first two games of their series.
The Dawgs started Abbott, whose 19 wins in her first season with the expansion franchise at least equaled the win total of any two other pitchers in the league in the regular season. The Bandits countered with Angel Bunner, a veteran who had one win in the regular season, and then rookie Shelby Turnier.
The Bandits have long been the Pride’s foil in the league — this will be their sixth meeting for the championship in the past seven seasons — in part because they had Abbott but also because owner Bill Sokolis and general manager Aaron Moore were able to identify underrated talent and retain many of those players in a league that is often transient. Players like Brittany Cervantes, in her fifth season, and Danielle Zymkowitz, in her sixth. So it was that the Bandits played Sunday like a team that got used to winning when Abbott was around, not a team afraid it wouldn’t be able to win without her.
Scrap Yard was a remarkable success as an expansion team. It will contend for titles with Abbott around. But as its players lamented, it couldn’t catch a break on Sunday. Those all seemed to go to the Bandits. And that’s nothing new.
“I feel like I was such a ringleader in that group at some point for some of those things,” Abbott said. “And now they’re doing it against me. It was a little bit like déjà vu and ironic.”
Abbott suggested that Cervantes played with a chip on her shoulder. It wasn’t a slight, instead sounding more like a compliment. And Cervantes agreed with the characterization. So many hitters are defeated before they even step into the batter’s box against Abbott. And to be sure, most Bandits left the box without much success. But from the opening inning, when Chicago’s Taylor Edwards hit a sharp double, Cervantes walked, Amanda Kamekona beat out a dribbler of an infield single and Zymkowitz drove in Edwards with a grounder to the right side, the Bandits weren’t intimidated.
“I think we came into the series knowing who we were going to face the entire time,” Cervantes said. “I played with her for four years, some people for five. So we kind of knew certain things. We tried to just attack early and set the tone from the first inning.”
Two innings later, Zymkowitz lined a triple over a drawn-in outfield to drive in the second run.
And right down to a seventh inning in which they essentially had to come up with five outs, the Bandits were given chances to falter. After the Pride’s Emilee Koerner led off the final frame with a single, the Bandits appeared to turn a clinical double play to put themselves on the brink of victory. But the umpire stood at home plate, left arm outstretched to signal that the catcher’s glove had contacted Emily Crane’s bat. Instead of two outs and no runners on base, Turnier faced no outs with two runners on base.
The extended inning, in turn, meant the final two batters to come to the plate were the two the Bandits least wanted to see: Nerissa Myers and Madison Shipman. With two outs, for real, Myers walked to load the bases. But Shipman hit a crisp liner to center for the final out.
“I told this group between games that I couldn’t be more proud of them, the way they fought,” Steuerwald said. “Win or lose, if Shipman gets a base hit and we lose that game, I still would have been just as proud of this group for the way they competed.”
With less than an hour between the end of the game against the Dawgs and the first pitch of the championship series opener, the Bandits couldn’t duplicate their bold opening.
The Bandits stranded two runners in the top of the first inning. Then the Pride’s Megan Wiggins, in many ways the primary pot stirrer in the rivalry between the two franchises when she played for the Bandits, hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the first. Chelsea Goodacre followed with a solo home run an inning later to double the lead.
Bandits starter Morgan Foley, who only months ago was pitching to NCAA Division II hitters for the University of Indianapolis, didn’t fold in a high-pressure spot. The rookie even struck out league MVP Kelly Kretschman twice, but Lauren Chamberlain’s RBI single made it 3-0 in the third inning. Chicago’s Kristen Brown pulled one run back on with a home run in the fifth inning off Pride starter Keilani Ricketts, but Ricketts and Jordan Taylor completed the pitching task.
The Pride have their own story to tell of stepping up when many expected a step back. With the ageless Kretschman in the lineup but without the contributions of former Olympians like Cat Osterman, Natasha Watley and Andrea Duran, the Pride entrusted their success to a new generation.
They then cruised to the best record in the regular season and are now poised to complete a dominant season, one in which they lead the league in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, fewest errors, ERA and pitching strikeouts.
What stands between them, as it so often has before, is a rival.
Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999
TUSCALOOSA, AL (August 21, 2016) – Whatever chance the Akron Racers had of knocking off the top-seeded USSSA Pride in the semifinal round of the NPF Championship Series dissipated in a long sixth inning Sunday at Rhoads Stadium. A quartet of Akron pitchers threw a total of 56 pitches in the inning as the Pride batted around in a revolving-door attack to score four runs on the way to a 6-2 victory.
USSSA Pride (39-13) eliminated Akron and advanced to the best-of-three championship round.
The Pride defeated the Racers 3-0 on Friday in their first semifinal meeting. Winning pitcher Jolene Henderson got an early lead and then the late outburst of support. “Regardless of if it’s early or late, I know it’s going to come because we have such good hitters,” she said.
The Pride took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. NPF Player of the Year Kelly Kretschman drew a walk, as did Lauren Chamberlain. Kretschman scored on catcher Chelsea Goodacre’s single to left field, and Chamberlain came home on an error. Had it not been for the USSSA Pride’s relentless top of the sixth, Akron might have tied the game on first baseman Sam Fischer’s home run to left field in the bottom of that inning. As it happened, however, the Pride had already taken an insurmountable lead. Center fielder Megan Wiggins started the bottom of the sixth off with a solo home run that stayed just inside the right field pole to make it 3-0, chasing Akron starter Sarah Pauly.
But that was only the beginning. Reliever Aimee Creger walked the next two batters and was replaced by Laura Winter, who promptly walked Chamberlain to load the bases. Hallie Wilson and Sierra Romero hit back-to-back RBI singles and Haylie McCleney drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0. After another single, Jailyn Ford came out of the bullpen to finally record the third out and stop the bleeding.
It was typical USSSA Pride softball, with a lineup full of collegiate All-Americans coming at pitchers in waves. “I think it’s one of those things where we kind of feed off each other,” Romero said. “We call it handing the bat back.” For Akron, it was like a never-ending inning. “I think our team was battling and our pitchers were doing all they could do at the time,” center fielder Taylor Schlopy said. “We were just trying to get the third out so we could get back up and score.”
Akron warmed up to play three times on Saturday, but it was called off each time due to weather. “I think we were in it the whole time,” third baseman Kelley Montalvo said. “Yesterday was all the delays and everything, but I don’t think that affected us at all. We came ready to play.”
Winning pitcher Jolene Henderson (10-3) cruised through five innings, scattering three hits with one walk and three strikeouts for the win. Pauly (7-7) took the loss. Fourth-seeded Akron finished with a 22-30 record.
CHICAGO BANDITS at USSSA PRIDE August 21, 2016 – 8:22 PM