Pride cap historic season with fourth Cowles Cup


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The USSSA Pride swept the Chicago Bandits in three games to win the Cowles Cup last week. It's the fourth National Pro Fastpitch championship for the Pride.

Dina Kwit, courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch

They were on a mission all season long.

And last week, at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois, the USSSA Pride got the job done and erased three years of frustration in the process.

Defeating the Chicago Bandits 4-0 behind a strong pitching effort and some clutch hitting, the Pride completed a three-game sweep of the Bandits to win the Cowles Cup and claim the National Pro Fastpitch championship.

“We definitely celebrated on the pitcher’s mound,” Pride first baseman and Eau Gallie High grad Alex Powers said.

“I think everybody gave hugs and just kind of celebrated and reveled in the fact of how hard we worked all season long. It had been a long time coming.”

It was the fourth Cowles Cup championship for the Pride, the first since 2014. The team had lost the past three championship series – twice to the Bandits.

Shortstop Shelby Pendley was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

It was also a historical season for the Pride, who went 42-5 during the regular season to set the all-time NPF record for most in a season.

“Taking home the regular-season record speaks volumes in terms of how the team came together and how much we were able to push through the grind, whether it was the travel or just (playing) a lot of games in a row against the same team,” Powers said.

“Mind you, we had a lot of people missing here and there because of USA (softball) and everything else, like girls representing the national team.”

Through it all, the Pride got big performances from a variety of players throughout the season.

Lauren Chamberlain and Megan Wiggins were part of a three-way tie for the league home run championship with 12 each. Wiggins led the league with 35 RBIs, followed by teammate Chelsea Goodacre with 33.

Pendley and teammates Allexis Bennett and Sierra Romero were in the top 10 in several categories as well. Former Satellite High star and Olympian Kelly Kretschman had a strong season as well.

The team also got contributions from Kirsti Merritt, Bianka Bell, Hallie Wilson, Powers, Sahvanna Jaquish and rookies Jessie Warren, Nicole DeWitt and Nicole Pendley.

Then there was the pitching staff. Jolene Henderson won the Diamond Sports Pitcher of the Year Award after going 10-0 with a 0.40 ERA. She, along with Jessica Burroughs, Keilani Ricketts, Delanie Gourley, Kelsey Nunley, Jailyn Ford and rookie Paige Parker did an exceptional job of not only executing on the mound, but also by willing to take the mound in any situation, be it as a starter or reliever.

“They’re stacked,” Powers said. “They did really well. I think they complement each other really well. They do combos, things like that, exceptionally. I don’t think any person gets their feelings hurt.

“They just kind of all embrace it in terms of sharing time and sharing opportunities. That’s kind of the most important thing because having a pitching staff that’s really working together is what’s going to take you through to the end.”

Another thing that stood out about this year’s team to anyone who watched them play was simply how well the team seemed to enjoy playing together.

“When you get to the pro level, it’s kind of tough sometimes because you have people from so many different backgrounds,” Powers said. “You never really know what you’re going to get into.

“This team really respects each other and we really have fun together. I think that’s the cool part about it.”