USSSA Pride usher in new era in Brevard County sports


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Jolene Henderson is part of a talented USSSA Pride pitching staff that should make the team exciting to watch this season.

photo by Carl Kotala

It’s a new era in Brevard County sports — and softball fans are going to love all the action.

The USSSA Pride opened up their 2017 National Pro Fastpitch season at Space Coast Stadium last month.

The former complex that housed the Washington Nationals spring training facility is undergoing a massive renovation by the USSSA that will see 15 new turf fields installed, including a new home for the Pride just north of the stadium’s entrance.

But for now, the team is playing its games inside Space Coast Stadium with its 6-foot-high portable fences — and plenty of excitement to go around.

Andrea Duran is just one of the reasons the USSSA Pride will be fun to watch this season. | PHOTO BY CARL KOTALA“I’ve only been to one game, but it was a nice experience,” said former Viera High softball standout Kaitlyn Jensen.

“My whole family went. It was kind of cool to see players I watch on TV in person.”

The Pride, who have won three consecutive regular-season titles and have advanced to the championship series eight consecutive years, feature an All-Star caliber roster that includes Brevard County’s own Kelly Kretschman.

After starring at Satellite High, Kretschman went on to become an All-American at Alabama and a member of the U.S. National Team, winning a gold and silver medal at the Olympics.

Last season, she became the first player in NPF history to win the Triple Crown.

“It was great to come home,” Kretschman said after the team’s opening game. “I never really thought as a professional athlete that I’d be playing right where I
grew up.

“The atmosphere was great. I’m glad all these fans came out. Hopefully, it continues to grow (once) people hear about us, learn about us and realize it’s fun to watch.”

Opening night drew 840 fans and the Pride have given them plenty of reason to come back.

Brevard County's own Kelly Kretschman lays down a bunt single, the first hit for the USSSA Pride in their new home at Space Coast Stadium. | PHOTO BY CARL KOTALAIn addition to Kretschman, the roster features another player with local roots. Alex Powers, who played at Eau Gallie before having a decorated career at Florida State, was the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. Her FSU teammate, pitcher Jessica Burroughs, was the No. 1 overall pick.

Other Pride players to watch this season include 2016 Jennie Finch Award winner Lauren Chamberlain and six others who were named to the 2016 All-NPF team: Megan Wiggins, Shelby Pendley, Jordan Taylor, Jolene Henderson, Kelsey Nunley and Hallie Wilson.

Not only can young softball fans get a chance to see their favorite players in action, a postgame autograph session — featuring players from both teams — will give them a chance to meet them in person.

That can only be inspiring.

“I know all the teams around here, I always see them posting pictures (on social media) at the Pride game,” Jensen said. “It’s definitely inspiring. Softball is going to build around here.

“Everybody’s going to be watching them and wanting to be like them.”

Tickets to Pride home games can be purchased at usssapride.com/tickets. General admission prices are $10 for adults; $5 for children (ages 2 to 12) and seniors (ages 65 and older). Groups of 25 or more will pay $9 per ticket.