USSSA Pride lose for just third time this season

Despite loss, team ‘ready’ to compete for Cowles Cup later this month


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USSSA Pride left fielder Megan Wiggins makes a diving catch during Saturday night's 5-3 loss to the Chicago Bandits at the USSSA Space Coast Complex.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

As members of the USSSA Pride were digesting their first home loss – and just their third defeat of the season – in their postgame meeting, catcher Chelsea Goodacre could be seen delivering a message to her teammates.

“Just (reminding) us to stay in the game,” Goodacre said. “We really haven’t had to play from behind before, so I think it was kind of a learning experience.

“Just making sure we stay together and stay up, because I don’t care what the score is, we all know we can win.”

The Pride certainly had their chances Saturday night, but ultimately couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Bandits at the USSSA Space Coast Complex.

It was the final home game of the season for the Pride (38-3), who will play on the road at Cleveland and Chicago beginning Aug. 6 before moving on to play the Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series.

The best-of-five battle for the Cowles Cup will take place Aug. 16-20 at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois.

It will be the 10th straight NPF Championship Series for the Pride, who will be looking to win their first Cowles Cup since 2014.

The team dominated teams all season – the Pride are four wins away from setting the NPF regular-season record for most wins – and took a 22-0 home record into Saturday’s game.

But it was the Bandits who jumped out on top, getting a two-run home run in the first inning and then adding three more for a 5-0 advantage heading into the bottom of the fourth.

The Pride would score three times in the bottom of the fourth without getting a hit.

Kelly Kretschman and Lauren Chamberlain walked, Shelby Pendley was hit by a pitch to load the bases and then Hallie Wilson drew a two-out walk to score Kretschman.

A wild pitch would bring Chamberlain and Pendley home to make it 5-3, but that’s as close as the Pride would get. The team would get runners to second and third with one out in the fifth and sixth innings but came up empty both times.

Kelsey Nunley got the start on the mound for the Pride and was followed by Jailyn Ford and Delanie Gourley.

“I don’t think anything’s too bad from this,” Goodacre said. “We still came back and scored a few runs. It’s just (a matter of) moving forward.”

As for having to play six games on the road next week to close out the regular season, Goodacre didn’t think motivation would be a problem for the Pride, particularly with three more games against Chicago before the NPF Championship Series starts.

“We kind of have that rivalry with them – we want to beat them every time we play them, regardless of whether we’ve clinched or not,” she said. “We want to win. … Every single at-bat and every game is going to be more data that we can gather so that we’re ready for the championships.”

A crowd of 1,240 braved the rain that came down for the first couple of innings of Saturday night’s game. And in their second season after moving to Viera, the Pride seem to have really found their niche in the community.

That was evident by the number of young fans lining the railing after the game for autographs and photos with the players.

“I think it’s amazing,” Goodacre said. “Last year, we started to gain a few fans by the end of the year. Having this be our last home game and seeing how many people are here, that’s just pretty incredible.

“We’ve come to know a lot of these little kids. We did a meet-and-greet today, which is fun for us, and I know it’s fun for the kids. I can’t wait for next year to see how the base just keeps growing.”

But first things first.

There’s a Cowles Cup trophy to be won and brought home. And the Pride are determined to make this their year.

“I think we’re ready,” Goodacre said. “We’ve lost a couple times in the championships and I think we’re ready to have that chip on our shoulder and hit the ground running right when we get there.

“No mercy.”