HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT)- Alabama gets a reputation as a football crazy state. Tide and Tigers, Blazers and Bulldogs, all day every day.
There’s something those people don’t know. The state of Alabama loves its softball.
Both the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers made the Women’s College World Series this season, and legions of fans followed them around the country. Before 2004, that was it for many softball players. The National Pro Fastpitch league changed that. The ten-year old league will be deciding it’s championship at the Hoover Met this weekend, and many former players that Tide and Tiger fans have watched over the years will be back on the field.
“This is what we live for, this is what we play for all year long is to get to championships and be able to walk away and say we’re the best team in the league,” said USSSA Pride pitcher Cat Osterman, a four-time All-American at Texas and Olympic gold medalist. This is Osterman’s last go-around in the NPF, as she will hang up the cleats at the end of the championship series. “It’s been fun. I’ve just tried to make the most of every game and every situation,” she said. “It’s been a long career here in the NPF. I couldn’t ask for a better team and a better organization to be a part of, and hopefully we can walk away with a ring.”
Osterman and the Pride practiced at Hoover High School on Tuesday.
On the other end of a career, is Lauren Chamberlain. The Pride rookie wrapped up her college career at Oklahoma in the Super Regional against Alabama in May, and immediately went into the professional ranks as the number one overall draft pick. “It’s been overwhelming at times and difficult at times, but overall worth it completely,” said Chamberlain, the NCAA all-time home runs leader. “It was fun for me because I had a lot of rookies in the same position as me, coming straight out of the season, so it wasn’t like I was doing it on my own.” Chamberlain is also not on her own when it comes to accolades. She is one of twenty players on the Pride roster that earned an All-American distinction in college. “Every aspect of softball here is better,” said Chamberlain. “Everyone’s faster, stronger, older, more experienced; especially the pitching I’m facing is better in the box.”
This is the second consecutive year the NPF is holding the championship series in Hoover. Kelly Kretschman is highly familiar with the territory, having played college ball just an hour away at Alabama. “I always have a tendency to play well in this state,” said Kretschman, wrapping up her tenth season in the league. “It’s nice to come back here and just know the type of support Alabama fans give us on a daily basis year-round. It’s going to be nice to be in front of fans who actually know who you are and what you’ve accomplished.”
Other players competing this weekend with state collegiate ties include Hannah Campbell (South Alabama/Akron Racers), Kelley Montalvo (Alabama/Racers), Branndi Melero (Auburn/Chicago Bandits), and Molly Fichtner (Alabama/Dallas Charge).
The Cowles Cup, the trophy given to the winner of the NPF Championship Series, will battled for by the Pride, Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Dallas Charge, and Pennsylvania Rebellion. Games start Friday at 5:00pm. The championship round starts on Sunday at 2:30pm.
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