By: Dustin Hood, via release
Brianna Hesson, infielder for the Akron Racers (photo courtesy of Bill Diem)
This week’s action around the NPF was unlike recent weeks we have seen thus far. There were no monstrous numbers of home runs hit, no no-hitters or even one-hitters, and not too many late game heroics. One thing that made this weekend one to remember is a ring. On the weekend that the USSSA Florida Pride and “Rookie Watch” pitcher Brittany Mack made her return to LSU’s Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Mack would receive a surprise or two that she will never forget.
The first series of the week placed the Akron Racers in Rosemont, IL to take on the red hot Chicago Bandits. In the first game on July 5th, the Bandits put their six game winning streak on the line with Nikki Nemitz in the circle. Nemitz took a 2-0 lead into the top of the 7th inning where she found her only trouble of the game. Nemitz issued a walk to Kaylyn Castillo and a single to Nicole Pauly. Brianna Hesson came to bat with two on and blasted a 3-run home run to give the Racers the late 3-2 lead. Nemitz would eventually finish with the loss on seven innings pitched, giving up only three hits and three runs (all earned), with five strikeouts, ending the win streak for the Bandits. The second game of the series on the 6th would be another unusual outing for Bandits’ ace, Monica Abbott. Abbott would go a full seven innings giving up six hits and allowing three runs, (two unearned), with ten strikeouts. Abbott registered the win with help from Alisa Goler as she doubled to bring in Amber Patton to give the Bandits the 4-3 lead late in the game. The Bandits would tack on two more to ensure the victory with a final score of 6-3.
On the 7th, the third game of the series saw “Rookie Watch” pitcher Hillary Bach for the Racers give a veteran outing as she went a full seven innings allowing two earned runs on seven hits with 5 strikeouts. Bach allowed the two earned runs in the first inning, but settled down to give up only four more hits and no runs through the remainder of the game. The Racers held on to take the game in close fashion again, on a score of 3-2. The Racers posted a three run 3rd inning that covered all their scoring for the day. The final game on the 8th saw the Racers take the only game of the series with dominance from either team, as Racer veteran Lisa Norris shut out the Bandits. Norris went seven innings giving up no runs and only three hits with five strikeouts. Brianna Hesson would do her part again as she hit her second home run of the week, a solo shot in the 2nd, in the 5-0 Racers win.
The USSSA Florida Pride had a special weekend as they hosted the Carolina Diamonds for what was a weather shortened three game set at LSU’s Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, LA. The first game on the 6th provided a duel between Pride ace Cat Osterman and Diamonds’ ace Katie Burkhart. Both pitchers went toe to toe for five innings before the Pride’s Kristen Sandberg got to Burkhart and knocked in the game’s only run with a double, scoring Jessica Mendoza. Burkhart would finish the loss with six innings pitched giving up a single earned run on five hits with five strikeouts. Burkhart kept pace with the Pride’s Cat Osterman who would get the win with seven innings pitched, giving up five hits and racking up eight strikeouts. The special moment of the weekend for the Pride would come after the game, as LSU Athletics hosted a post game ceremony featuring the unveiling of a permanent stadium banner for rookie pitcher Brittany Mack that includes her status as the #1 NPF 2012 Draft pick by the Pride. This was not the only highlight of the night for Mack however, as shortly after the banner unveiling, her boyfriend of 4 years, Josh Oakes, hit a knee near the pitcher’s circle and proposed. In a very moving ceremony to celebrate the career of Brittany Mack at LSU, and engagement, the night was one that Mack would never forget.
In the second game of the series on the 7th, the Diamonds would break through for the first time this season against the Pride. The Diamonds scored an impressive eleven runs in the game as yet another “Rookie Watch” pitcher would take the stage in the NPF. Rookie Angel Bunner, was in the circle for the Diamonds for the first game of a double header for the day. Bunner went a full seven innings giving up only two earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts. The Diamonds struck first with three runs in the top of the 1st inning and then tacked on another seven runs in the 2nd inning to make the lead 10-0 after just two innings of play. The Pride would rally with 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning, but would eventually fall 11-2.
The second game of the double header was the third of the series and eventually the last. The game started Saturday night and went into the top of the 3rd inning as the Diamonds had a 2-0 lead before rain came, causing a brief weather delay. Action continued nearly half an hour later, and with this, the Pride bats woke up. The Pride scored two runs immediately in the bottom of the 3rd inning on a pair of Sara Plourde wild pitches. The Pride struck again in the 4th scoring with four more runs to take the 7-3 lead. After the 4th inning was completed, weather again caused the game to be delayed and eventually postponed to the following day. On the 8th, action from the previous night would be continued, shortly after noon, and with this came a rally from the Diamonds. The Diamonds scored three runs in the top of the 5th inning on hits by GiOnna DiSalvatore and Kelsi Weseman to make the score 7-6. The Pride however, outlasted the rally, and weather, to get the win with a final score of 11-6. The fourth game of the series was eventually cancelled due to severe weather in the area, shortening the series to a three game set.
This coming week the Carolina Diamonds will host the Akron Racers in two games at Flour Field in Greenville, South Carolina. Then the series will move to Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium in Kannapoils, North Carolina on Saturday and Sunday. The second series of the weekend will see the USSSA Florida Pride host the Chicago Bandits at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. Then the series will shift to Astros Stadium in Kissimmee, FL for the remainder of the series.