NORMAN -- For the second straight season, former Oklahoma pitcher Michelle Gascoigne and the Chicago Bandits have won the Cowles Cup as National Pro Fastpitch champions. In doing so, she helped Chicago come back to defeat a USSSA Pride team featuring former Sooner teammates Lauren Chamberlain, Shelby Pendley and Keilani Ricketts, 2-1, in a best-of-three series in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Aided by the bat of Chamberlain and the pitching of Ricketts, the Pride actually took game one of the series with a 3-1 victory Sunday night. With USSSA on top 2-0 in the third, Chamberlain added an insurance run in the third with an RBI single through the left side. That would ultimately be enough offense for Ricketts who threw 5.0 innings with five hits and one run allowed. She struck out three and walked none to earn the victory.
Gascoigne and the Bandits had an answer, though, in game two Monday. Getting the start, Gascoigne helped Chicago even the series as she went 4.1 innings with five runs allowed on seven hits and two strikeouts in an 11-5 win. Pendley, meanwhile, was 2-4 with a pair of singles, a run scored and an RBI in a losing effort for the Pride.
Tied in the series 1-1, it all came down to Tuesday night’s decisive game three. After doing her part Monday, Gascoigne watched from the bench as her team emerged with a 2-1 win to upset the top-seeded Pride. Ricketts was saddled with the loss despite just allowing two runs on five hits in 4.1 innings. Unfortunately, those two runs were back-to-back homers in the third, staking Chicago to all the runs it would need. Ricketts struck out five and walked one while finishing 8-6 on the season. Chamberlain and Pendley combined to collect three of the Pride’s eight hits in the loss.
Gascoigne appeared in two games for the Bandits during the playoffs, also getting a start against the Scrap Yard Dawgs in the semifinals. She had an 8.75 earned run average in 8.0 innings over her two appearances but posted a 1-1 record with three strikeouts and just two walks.
For the Pride, Ricketts made three starts throughout the playoffs, including game one of the semifinals versus the Akron Racers where she threw a four-hit shutout and games one and three of the championship series vs. Chicago. In 16.1 total innings in the playoffs, she gave up just three earned runs for a 1.29 ERA. She struck out 11 and walked two with 14 hits allowed, going 1-2.
Chamberlain was 4-13 at the plate during the playoffs to record a .308 batting average and added three walks for a .438 on-base percentage. She scored three runs and drove in four, including a three-run homer in game one of the semifinals against Akron.
Pendley wasn’t quite as effective at the plate. She was 3-15 (.200) in the playoffs, though she did have three hits in her final seven at-bats of the season. She walked three times, drove in one and scored three times.