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USSSA Pride Sweeps Way To Repeat NPF Title

HOOVER, Ala. –- A seven-run sixth inning for the USSSA Pride was the difference as they swept the two-game series with the Akron Racers and won the Cowles Cup for the second year in a row. A crowd of nearly 1,300 was on hand at the Hoover Met to watch the championship final.

The Racers got a two-out rally going in the bottom of the first starting with a base hit by first baseman Charlotte Morgan. Designated player Jessica Garcia then drilled the first pitch from Pride starting pitcher Keilani Ricketts over the fence in center field for a two-run homer and a 2-0 lead. It was Garcia’s second home run of the championship series.

Danielle Lawrie came on to pitch for the Pride in the bottom of the second. Ricketts gave up three hits and two earned runs, along with one strikeout, in her one inning of work.

For Akron, starting pitcher Lisa Norris retired the first seven batters she faced before a double into the left-field corner by Pride catcher Megan Willis with one out in the top of the third. Cassie Tysarczyk pinch ran for Willis and scored on a two-out, RBI single to center by leftfielder Natasha Watley, cutting the Akron lead to 2-1.

Lawrie was strong in relief for the Pride, retiring the first six Akron batters she faced, including three strikeouts.

The Pride tied the game in the top of the sixth on a solo home run by second baseman Brigette Del Ponte. Watley followed with a single, and then centerfielder Caitlin Lowe reached on an error. The throw by shortstop Nerissa Myers went into the stands, advancing Watley to third and Lowe to second. Norris intentionally walked shortstop Madison Shipman to load the bases with no outs.

The Pride took the lead on a RBI single to right field by third baseman Andrea Duran, scoring Watley. That was followed by an RBI single to left by first baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore, scoring Lowe. The Pride led 4-2 and still had the bases loaded with no outs; Alison Owen came on to pitch for Akron.

Rightfielder Kelly Kretschman singled to center field, driving in two more runs. The Pride led 6-2, and added another run when pinch runner Sharonda McDonald tagged and scored on a sacrifice fly by designated player Amanda Kamekona. It was 8-2 for the Pride after an RBI single to left by Willis. Akron then brought in Hannah Campbell to relieve Owen.

In the sixth, the Pride sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring seven runs on six hits, one walk and one error.

Akron mounted a threat in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with two outs on singles by Carcia and centerfielder Taylor Schlopy, as well as an error by Lawrie. With the bases load, Lawrie got catcher Haley Outon to ground out to short, ending the inning.

Lawrie picked up the win in relief, allowing one run on three hits in six innings of work. She retired 12 of the first 13 batters she faced after coming on for the Pride.

Pride pitcher Cat Osterman, who threw a complete-game shutout with 12 strikeouts in the opener of the best-of-three series, was named MVP of the Championship Series; it was the second consecutive year she earned the honor and the third time in her career.

-- courtesy National Pro Fastpitch