USSSA Pride and Chicago Bandits Tangle Thursday Night in Viera

USSSA Pride and Chicago Bandits Tangle Thursday Night in Viera

Some of you know of my love for sports and for softball in particular. Last night two of the best teams in National Pro Fastpitch met at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. The rain-delayed contest ended with the Pride on top, 3-0. Pride slugger Lauren Chamberlain went yard twice on Kaia Parnaby, the Bandit’s rookie hurler in her professional debut. Both shots were no-doubters; Bandits outfielders took a step or two and then watched those bright yellow spheres sail on through the night sky.

These are good times for fans, supporters and players of the game of softball. As many of you may know, softball and baseball will be played in the Olympic Games again in Tokyo in 2020. See my posting on that IOC decision from back on August 6, 2016 if you’d like.

Though it may be true that professional softball is small potatoes compared to big league baseball, the N.P.F. is working hard to keep the sport thriving. The USSSA Pride is the league’s showcase team and if you’re a fan here in the Central Florida area, their home field, Space Coast Stadium, is just down the road. Well, just take exit 195 from I-95 and you’re there!

I’ve been in Florida for a very, very long time and I really don’t like those nasty, sticky, scorching summers we all learn to endure down here. Trips to the beach and the ballpark are my two best strategies to thrive and survive while we wait for the arrival of milder temps and fall sports! It’s working for me!

See you at the ballpark!

 

Ballpark Bulldog Ben

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

 

 

UCF Softballers Bash UConn in Home Finale

UCF Softballers Bash UConn in Home Finale

What you’re seeing in the featured photo is a softball about a millisecond before Knights catcher Cassady Brewer crushes it into the stands in right-center field. I caught that first inning shot, it was the first of the two round-trippers she smacked on Sunday afternoon.

The second was a walk off grand slam, which triggered an immediate 9-0 run rule victory for the Knights in the sixth. UConn bested them on Friday night with two grand slams of their own; UCF’s intrepid softball squad took game two on Saturday and yesterday’s convincing win gave them that badly-needed 2-1 series edge.

I did not catch Cassady’s coup de grâce on film. I had put my camera away by then. I just wanted the luxury of watching the game without being in my usual “don’t miss this next shot” mode, and so I stashed my pride and joy in the car. That’ll teach me! Of course, merely seeing it with my eyes is still one of the best moments of the 2017 season! (If you’d like to read my posting about an earlier round-tripper from Brewer, one that bested Baylor, catch the one dated March 20 of this year.)

This was the last home game for the Knights. Sad to see the season wrapping up. There are four more regular season games, a single tilt with BCC in Daytona on Wednesday. And then a three game series in Tulsa with the Golden Hurricane. And when the AAC Tournament kicks off, Tulsa may well be the team to beat; but you can bet that the Knights will show up in Greenville ready to play.

UCF had/is having a decent season — their record after Sunday stands at 25-21, falling far short of last year’s campaign. The 2016 squad made it to the regional play-offs last May where they beat FAU twice but were eliminated by the Gators. I traveled up to G’ville for that tourney and enjoyed it immensely in spite of the Knights not advancing.

As this season winds down, let me contrast the current season with last year’s to shed a bit more light on recent UCF softball history. The 2016 incarnation of the Knights was really good, finishing 38-22 and delighting UCF fans all over Central Florida. The only down side: the team graduated eight seniors including ace pitcher Shelby Turnier, catcher and power hitter Samantha McCloskey and slugger Jamie Ujvary. Shelby — as you may know if you follow the sport — had a stellar first season at the pro level with the Chicago Bandits of National Pro Fastpitch.

It was apparent to most fans that the Knights would have a hard time topping last year’s season and so their 25-21 record at this point with four regular season games left is not a bad 2017 campaign. As far as how UCF’s softballers may fare in the future, there are no fewer than nine freshmen on the squad, including a gaggle of pitchers who show a lot of promise, so I’m looking for great things from UCF moving forward. And in the meantime, the results of Sunday’s outing will send the squad into their last series and the AAC tourney ready to show their stuff.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Shelby Turnier on Instagram: “So I grew up a little today. I’m so excited to start this next chapter as an assistant coach at UNF!”

Congratulations to Chicago Bandits pitcher Shelby Turnier on another milestone in her stellar career. The former UCF Ace is now on the UNF staff. We UCF fans are fine with it. The Ospreys are not in our conference! Good on you, Shelby!

See this Instagram photo by @shelbyturnier7 • 303 likes

Source: Shelby Turnier on Instagram: “So I grew up a little today. I’m so excited to start this next chapter as an assistant coach at UNF!”

The Chicago Bandits Do It Again

The Chicago Bandits Do It Again

On Tuesday night the Chicago Bandits took the Cowles Cup for the second straight year. I know that Professional softball is not on the typical sports fan’s radar, but I’m a serious fan of the game and watching the National Pro Fastpitch Championship was pure delight!

Those of you who know me from the real world, know that I have long roots in Central Florida; a part of my interest in the NPF league stems from the fact that the Chicago Bandits took former UCF pitcher Shelby Turnier in last year’s draft; I just loves me some Knights sports! She was the first pick in the second round, eleventh overall. Shelby had a very good year as an NPF frosh and really shined in the post-season.

Turnier got nine innings of work in three games in the NPF playoffs and didn’t allow a single run. Her ERA was 3.69 at the end of the regular season and shrank to 3.22 with her strong performances against the Scrap Yard Dawds and the front-running USSSA Pride.

As a staff, the Bandits performed well overall. Angel Bunner was solid — as was Michelle Gascoigne — but when you look at the stats, Shelby was on fire. She has positioned herself as one of the best relievers in the business, and she — and the Bandits organization — have to be very pleased with her inaugural season.

For more about National Pro Fastpitch, the only Womens’ Professional softball league in the U.S., follow this link.

 

Photo UCF Athletics used with permission

 

 

Former UCF Ace Shelby Turnier Takes a Tough Loss

Former UCF Ace Shelby Turnier Takes a Tough Loss

If you’re from Central Florida and follow UCF sports–softball in particular–you almost certainly have heard of pitcher Shelby Turnier. She was a first team All American in her junior season, 2015, after having the lowest ERA in the nation. Yes, an ERA of 0.74 is crazy-good.

More than good enough to earn Shelby a roster spot on the Chicago Bandits, one of the more competitive teams in the NPF. They took her in the draft last year at no. 11 overall. That is the highest draft pick in the history of UCF softball.

There are six teams in the NPF and the top four go to the play-offs each year. At the time of this writing, the Bandits are in fourth place and would make it in if the season ended today. They are the defending champs; the Bandits are not shining as brightly in the 2016 campaign as they did last time out. They’ve had trouble coming up with clutch hits this year. And that problem plagued them last night in their game with the Akron Racers.

Shelby was in fine form and her five hit, one run effort would have easily won on most nights. But Racer DH Ashley Thomas went yard on Shelby in the sixth and that was all it took. She fanned eight hitters against the Racers and showed once again that she’s one of the NPF’s best rookie pitchers. This loss dropped her to 4-4 on the year, but I’d like the record to show that this one-run outing in six complete innings did lower her ERA is spite of taking the “L”.

Jason Lowenthal pens those fine features about Bandits softball. To see his good and thorough write up on last night’s contest, follow this link.

I’ve not had too much to say about sports here on da bulldog blog so far. But I’m a major sports fan, and love softball particularly. I’ll have a whole lot more to say about sports moving forward.

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit: Benjamin Lawrence Basile