by Kayla Lombardo, Softball America on August 17, 2019
ROSEMONT, Ill. – It was déjà vu for the USSSA Pride in 2019. After a 2018 National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series that saw USSSA record a three-game sweep over the Chicago Bandits in the league’s best-of-five finals, history proved to repeat itself at Parkway Bank Sports Complex on Saturday. In front of a sold out crowd, the Pride took down the Bandits, 8–2, to capture their second straight Cowles Cup and fifth in the organization’s history.
This year, however, things were slightly different for USSSA en route to the title. After a regular season that hampered them with injuries, the Pride came into the 2019 NPF Championship Series as less of a dominant force than in 2018.
But that didn’t stop the reigning–Cowles Cup champions from stepping things up when it mattered the most. After taking the first two games of the series, the Pride picked up on Saturday right where they left off on Friday.
Sydney Romero got things started for the Pride in Game 3 with a single to right field on the first pitch of the game. Two batters later, Shelby Pendley hit a home run to right field that put USSSA ahead 2–0 in the top of the first inning. Brittany Cervantes followed Pendley’s blast with one of her own to increase USSSA’s advantage to 3–0.
Abbey Cheek helped the Bandits take back some momentum in the bottom of the first inning, however, when she cranked a solo home run off of USSSA starter Taran Alvelo to make the score 3–1.
The Bandits kept things rolling in the second, as Brenna Moss and Alyssa DiCarlo hit back-to-back singles to open the frame. Courtney Gano then followed with a run-scoring base hit to narrow USSSA’s lead to 3–2.
But the Pride answered right back in the third inning, as Romero once again led things off with a single, while Megan Wiggins followed with one of her own. That set the stage for Kelly Kretschman, who delivered a hit to drive in a run in what would prove to be the final NPF game of her illustrious 14-year professional softball career. Shay Knighten then stepped up to the plate and broke the game open with a two-run double to make it 6–2.
Knighten added another RBI hit in the top of the fifth with a single up the middle that brought USSSA’s advantage to 7–2. Kretschman would tally another RBI in the top of the sixth to make the score 8–2 in favor of the Pride.
That’s where the score would remain, as Pride relievers Jolene Henderson and Jailyn Ford shut the Bandit offense down the rest of the way.
The Pride finished the 2019 campaign with a 35–13 record, while the Bandits ended the season at 38–10.