Photo by Leonardo Fernandez/Getty Images
Plus, there’s even more great softball on this week.
As ever, there are plenty of sports to watch. We live in an era without offseasons, though sometimes the insatiable maw of the sports content machine makes it feel otherwise.
One sport in the thick of some sneakily exciting competition — and getting only a fraction of the already-minimal attention it receives during its collegiate season peak — is softball. At every level, the wholly underrated sport is in the midst of some of its best match-ups besides the inimitable Women’s College World Series (which … if you missed it, you missed some of the most exciting games of the year).
For the 1st time since 2010, @UCLASoftball wins the #WCWS! pic.twitter.com/5T5Ew7r4zS
— ESPN (@espn) June 5, 2019
The U.S. Women’s National Softball Team is ramping up for Tokyo 2020, where softball will return to the Olympics for the first time in over a decade. The sport was excluded from the 2012 and 2016 games (along with baseball) for being too U.S.-centric. They won gold last weekend in a tight 3-1 final at the Pan-American Games over Canada, the reigning champs. Ace Monica Abbott tallied 48 strikeouts in four games, the most of anyone at the tournament; the former Tennessee standout also holds just about every NCAA pitching record, and three years ago became the first-ever National Pro Fastpitch player to sign a $1 million contract.
Speaking of which: Yes, there is a professional American softball league (to the surprise of many, including NFL player Dede Westbrook) — and its best-of-five championship series starts tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET (if you’re based near Chicago, there are still tickets available along with an enviable-looking tailgate).
This year’s National Pro Fastpitch finals are between two longtime rivals: the Chicago Bandits and the USSSA Pride. The Pride swept the Bandits last season, but this time Chicago is coming in with a stacked roster as the regular-season champs. Bandits catcher Amanda Chidester has the biggest bat in the league (to the tune of a .814 slugging percentage) and rookie Abbey Cheek is close behind (.378 batting average, the best in NPF).
Amanda Chidester hits her second Home Run of the Game and 15th of the season to help the @Chicago_Bandits retake the lead: 3-2! Watch them play the @USSSAPride in the final regular season game of the #NPF2019 season on @FloSoftball. pic.twitter.com/paijNChenq
— NationalProFastpitch (@profastpitch) August 11, 2019
The Pride are underdogs, despite being in position to defend their title, but you can never count out a team with just-graduated Oklahoma stars Sydney Romero and Shay Knighten, as well as extremely clutch Golden Glove finalist Jessie Warren. You can find an in-depth preview here.
B3 | Double Play! @Emily5Car to @syd_syd2 to @shay_1715 & that will end the inning pic.twitter.com/MNjRVwo6WR
— USSSA Pride (@USSSAPride) August 11, 2019
Pressure is Privilege for @shay_1715! Shay Knighten as she cranks a 3 Run Double, putting the @USSSAPride up 3-1 against the @AussiePeppersMN in the bottom of the 6 INN.
Don’t miss the rest of this great game and tune in @FloSoftball for some late-night #NPF2019! pic.twitter.com/t6QghZiLiP
— NationalProFastpitch (@profastpitch) August 7, 2019
Finally, tonight is the Little League Softball World Series championship game, airing on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET. Southeast (Rowan Little League from Salisbury, North Carolina) and Southwest (Eastbank Little League from New Orleans) will face off for the title, with middle schoolers throwing over 60 mph underhand, as one does.
Southeast needed extra innings to advance to the Little League Softball World Series Championship! #LLWS pic.twitter.com/VneprE6ZFF
— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 14, 2019