Brevard embraces Pride as they go for another Cowles Cup trophy
Members of the USSSA Pride celebrate after winning the 2018 Cowles Cup. They begin the defense of that trophy this month.
Courtesy of the USSSA Pride
The USSSA Pride are coming off one the most dominating seasons in all of professional sports … and Brevard County softball fans are paying attention.
“I think (people) are definitely taking notice in the area,” said Pride first baseman Alex Powers, who is a former Eau Gallie High School and Florida State standout.
“People are kind of rallying behind us now. They know who we are. They know what the (USSSA Space Coast) Complex is like. They definitely get excited. There’s definitely a little bit of a hype. People are ready.”
The Pride went 45-5 last season, winning the National Pro Fastpitch Softball Cowles Cup for the fourth time in 10 seasons. They’ve won seven regular-season titles and five in a row.
This year, the quest will be to hoist that trophy one more time.
“A championship is always the end goal,” Powers said. “The regular season just goes to show your body of work, that you worked hard for all summer long. Winning both is a big deal. Everybody has it on their mind.”
The Pride began the season May 30 and 31 with two exhibition games against the Czech Republic National Team. Admission was free for both those games.
From there, the Pride will hit the road for their regular-season opener on June 6 against the Canadian Wild and legendary pitcher Danielle Lawrie, who has come out of retirement to pitch for her national team. Their first home game is set for June 18 against the Aussie Peppers.
The addition of the Canadian national team, plus a revamped Chicago Bandits team, will certainly make repeating as champions more challenging.
While Pride general manager Don DeDonatis said the team’s nucleus is “as solid as can be,” there will be a few notable changes. Last year’s championship MVP, shortstop Shelby Pendley, was named to the U.S. Women’s national team along with outfielder Kirsti Merritt and pitcher Keilani Ricketts. Pitchers Delanie Gourley and Kelsey Nunley also have retired.
That might have left the Pride with a few holes to fill, but boy, did they ever fill them in the NPF draft.
“We have the two best players in college softball coming into the Pride with Sydney Romero (from Oklahoma) and Amanda Lorenz (from Florida),” DeDonatis said. “Sydney will come right in and take Shelby’s place and it will be her and her sister (Sierra) at second and short, which is kind of a cool thing. You don’t see that too much in pro sports.”
With a pitching staff led by Jessica Burroughs and a lineup that will include former Satellite High and Olympic star, Kelly Kretschman, power-hitting star Lauren Chamberlain, Sierra Romero and Jessie Warren — just to name a few — the Pride boast a roster where every player has either won a national championship or been named an All-American.
“We feel really solid,” DeDonatis said. “We’re ready to go. We’ve got most of the nucleus of the (pitching) staff back. We had the lowest ERA in the league last year.”
This year’s team will be managed by Gerry Glascow of the University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. Embry-Riddle coach and former Alabama star Kelsi Dunne will be the pitching coach and Stephanie Ceo from St. Mary’s also will serve as an assistant.
Powers, now having fully adjusted to the league, could be ready for a breakout year in her third season.
“There’s definitely a sense of comfort and confidence going into it,” she said. “It’s definitely humbling, obviously. It takes a while … not that the girls are anything less than awesome, but you definitely have to prove yourself and show why you’re there and how hard you work. You earn respect on this team and in this league.
“I think I finally feel comfortable with myself, just being who I am. You go through that in college. You go through that here. It’s awesome. I’m definitely prepared. I’m definitely ready to get after it and compete.”