KIMBERLY, Wis. – On the eve of the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship Series in Kimberly, Wis., the league handed out its annual awards to the top players in the league during the 2008 season.
Much like last season, the team winning the regular season crown also took home a majority of the hardware. In total, the Chicago Bandits, who finished the regular season with a 32-16 record, took home five of the seven awards distributed on Thursday night.
The first award of the night went to Chicago Bandits rookie and 2008 second round draft pick Rachel Folden. Folden was named the 2008 Nokona American Glove Rookie of the Year after hitting .311 on the season with 38 hits and 25 runs scored. She finished the season with 11 home runs, a .631 slugging percentage and was fourth in the NPF with 32 RBIs.
Philadelphia Force rookie and former college standout at Arizona State University, Katie Burkhart, took home the 2008 Diamond Sports Pitcher of the Year Award. Burkhart posted a 13-5 record as a rookie and was tied for second in innings pitched on the year with 131.2. She struck out the third most hitters in the league with 149 and her 1.88 was good for second best. Burkhart, who set new Force season and career records, pitched a total of 15 complete games.
Kristen Butler of the Akron Racers was named the 2008 Nokona America Glove Defensive Player of the Year Award after an outstanding year behind the plate. She was very impressive offensively as well hitting .317 with 10 home runs, nine doubles and a team-high 34 RBIs, which ranked her second in the league. But it was her ability to keep runners from stealing that helped her win this award. She allowed just a handful of stolen bases all season to help win the award.
Switching from defense to offense, the Bandits’ Jaime Clark was named the Nokona American Glove Offensive Player of the year after leading the NPF in RBIs with 38 and doubles with 12. She ranked fourth in home runs with 11 and she also recorded 24 runs and 40 hits. Clark saw time this season in right field, left field and at shortstop. Clark was also an All-NPF selection for the third straight season.
The 2008 Diamond Sports Coaching Staff of the Year was presented to the entire staff from the Chicago Bandits. Head Coach Mickey Dean, who is in his fourth season at the helm, and assistant coaches Thomas Macera and Craig Nicholson took the Bandits from worst to first in 2008 and guided the team to a final record of 32-16.
From coaching staffs to teams, the Chicago Bandits took home the 2008 Majestic Athletic Cup as the regular season champions. This is the third time in four seasons that the Bandits have won the regular season title.
The award of the night also was presented to a Chicago Bandits player in third baseman Stacy May. After nearly completing a quest for the league’s triple crown, May was recognized by the other teams in the league to win the Majestic Athletic 2008 NPF Player of the Year. May led off for Chicago and constantly found ways to get on base. May was second in the NPF with a .391 batting average and tied with the Washington Glory's Oli Keohohou and Sara Larquier for the league lead with 13 home runs. She also was tied for second in the NPF (Akron Racers' Kristen Butler) with 34 RBIs. May led the NPF in at-bats (156), runs (39) hits (61) and slugging percentage (.686). Her seven doubles and .463 on-base-percentage put her in the league's top five. May was the 2006 NPF Rookie of the Year and made the 2006 All-NPF Team at third base.
The top four teams will begin postseason play on Friday evening in Kimberly, Wis. The first seed Chicago Bandits will take on the No. 4 seed New England Riptide in game one at 6 p.m. Game two of the night will be No. 2 seed Philadelphia Force and the No. 3 seed Washington Glory scheduled to start at approximately 8:45 p.m. CDT.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL)