With a 9-1 win over the Beijing Eagles last Wednesday night, the Chicago Bandits captured the 2019 National ProFastpitch regular-season championship. Concluding their 14th season, the Bandits are heading to familiar territory as they host the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series Aug. 15-19 at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont LIVE on FloSoftball.
The Bandits will face longtime rival the USSSA Pride for this year’s Cowles Cup, as the two are the most decorated teams in the league and have faced off six times before in the championship series. With a 10-2 win back on Aug. 2nd over the Pride, the Bandits snapped an eight-game losing streak against their rivals, which included last season’s playoffs.
The Bandits took a two-game set against the Pride in Rosemont this past weekend to close out the final weekend of the regular season.
Each team can boast of multiple titles.
Chicago won in 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016, while The Pride captured titles in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2018. Other than the 2012 title, when the championship series was rained out, the only year since 2010 that the Bandits or Pride didn’t win the title was 2017 when the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs beat the Pride.
The Pride weathered a rough July, with former Florida stars Amanda Lorenz and Nicole DeWitt, and Oklahoma's Falepolima Aviu out for the season with knee injuries. Late pickup Kat Moore and Chelsea Goodacre are sidelined with finger injuries, and they join last year's top hitter on the injured list, Sierra Romero, who injured her knee in a preseason exhibition.
In a bold roster move, they sent former Oklahoma stars, pitcher Paige Parker and right fielder Nicole Pendley, to Cleveland for sluggers Brittany Cervantes of Kentucky and Emily Carosone of Auburn, along with the rights to former Florida State pitcher Meghan King.
Taran Alvelo leads the Pride staff with a 1.10 ERA, and with Jolene Henderson and Jailyn Ford lead a strong staff that also includes Megan Good and Jessica Burroughs. Avelo leads all NPF pitchers with a 0.68 WHIP, while Henderson has logged the most innings from the circle in the league with 91.1 innings pitched.
Highlighting recent action, Cervantes, hitting in the cleanup spot, capped a 3-for-3 night with a walk-off home run to beat the Canadian Wild 5-4. NPF leader in both hits (49) and runs (28), Sydney Romero had an explosive series against Beijing, launching a bomb on July 24 and then going 4-for-4 with four runs and three RBI in an 8-0 win against the Eagles.
On the basepaths, speedy Alexis "Chip" Bennett has been giving opponents headaches, ranking second in the NPF with 15 stolen bases.
The Bandits are strong from the circle, featuring former Florida Gators pitching stars Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio as well as Danielle O'Toole of Arizona and Haylie Wagner of Michigan. Ocasio’s 0.89 ERA ranks second in the NPF stat roll, with Wagner’s 1.02 mark right behind her at third.
Rachele Fico, the NPF leader in wins with 11, can dominate as well having posted a 7-inning perfect game against the Aussie Peppers back in July, striking out six.
At the plate, catcher Amanda Chidester has been leading the way for the Bandits as the league’s top hitter. In her first year with the Bandits, she sits atop the NPF in home runs with 15, RBIs with 35, a .815 slugging percentage.
Abbey Cheek sits atop the NPF with a .378 batting average, and along with 2018 NPF Player of the Year Brenna Moss, Hannah Flippen’s league-leading four triples, and Gwen Svekis who leads the league in doubles with 12, also provide plenty of pop for the Bandits lineup.
With a sweep of the NPF weekly honors for week 10 of the season, the Bandits are firing on all cylinders heading into the final week of regular season play and the championship series.
Chidester earned Player of the Week honors, tallying at least one extra-base hit in every game she played during the week, along with a home run in four consecutive games. She hit two home runs against the Beijing Eagles and in a game against the Pride, along with posting a five-RBI game against the latter.
Pitcher of the Week honors went to Fico who in the second game of a doubleheader against Beijing held the Eagles to just four hits, with one walk and three strikeouts en route to a 5-1 win.
Fico entered in the bottom of the fifth against the Pride and pitched the rest of the way to a 4-3 win, only allowing one hit and two walks while striking out six in four innings of work to earn the win.
Completing the sweep of the NPF honors, Cheek picked up the Rookie of the Week award after landing a hit in all her games during the week, along with two separate 3-RBI games. During the nightcap of a doubleheader against Beijing, she went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, and three RBI’s.
The NPF Championship series is set to open with a first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15th in Rosemont.