Folden was a four-time All-American for the Herd and a second-round draft choice in the spring, the Bandits followed up the regular season title with their first-ever championship series win. This win for the Bandits was their 15th straight and third in the row during the playoffs. At the midway point of the regular season the Bandits were 12-12 and in fourth place, but they went on to win 20 of 24 regular season games to win the regular season crown. They continued the "refuse to lose" mentality in the playoffs by going 3-0.
Rachel Folden, possibly the greatest softball player in the history of the Marshall program, was named National Fastpitch Rookie of the Year and helped the Comcast Chicago Bandits to the regular season and championship tournament title this past weekend photo courtesy of chicagobandits.com
Down 1-0 in the first, Chicago didn't waste much time getting the lead back. Folden picked up her fifth hit in as many at-bats over the last two games to bring veteran Jaime Clark to the plate, and she blasted a two-run home run deep over the left field fence. It would be Washington's turn to score next. The Glory would score three runs of their own in the top half of the third inning. Washington reeled off three consecutive hits, including an RBI triple from Amber Jackson and a two-run bomb by Oli Keohohou to take the 4-2 lead.
It was 4-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning that the Bandits would take the lead for good. After a leadoff double from Folden and a walk, rookie slugger Samantha Findlay put the Bandits in the lead for good with a double to the left center field gap. Amanda Freed would drive in Emily Nichols, who was running for Findlay, with a pinch-hit single to centerfield for an extra insurance run.
This is the first-ever championship for the Comcast Chicago Bandits. They have won the NPF Regular Season crown on three separate occasions, but never won the title. Nicole Trimboli was named the 2008 NPF Championship Series MVP after going 5-for-9 in the three games, with five runs batted in, four runs scored, two home runs and a stolen base.
In the semi-finals of the 2008 NPF Championship Series, Folden led Chicago to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Force to set up a title match. In the first inninge, Trimboli went through the collapsible left field fence to rob a homerun in the first inning to save three runs as no one advanced on the play. Teammate Jaime Clark went through the right field fence to do the same for Chicago later . The play resulted in a sacrifice fly, scoring the Forces only run of the game. Clark's catch was equally impressive, as she was able to save a potential home run.
In the bottom of the first, the Bandits recorded four consecutive hits, including a two RBI single by Trimboli and an RBI single by Samantha Findlay. In the fourth, with two on, Folden delivered with a two-RBI double to deep left center. Folden led the Chicago offense on the day as she finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored.
In the first round of the playoffs on Friday night, the Bandits knocked off the No. 4 seeded New England Riptide in game one of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship Series, 4-1.
Much like last season, by Chicago winning the regular season set its players up to take home a majority of the hardware. In total, the Chicago Bandits 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 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. Folden was three-time All-Conference USA as well as All-Mid-American Conference as a frosh and holds MU records for career and season home runs and runs batted in among others.
Kristen Butler of the Akron Racers (who are coached by Marshall head coach Shonda Stanton) 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, ranked her second in the league. 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.
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. Clark of Chicago 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 took the Bandits from worst to first in 2008 and guided the team to a final record of 32-16.
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.
This story includes information from the Nationaal Prod Fastpitch League and the Comcast Chicago Bandits web sites (www.profastpitch.com and www.chicagobandits.com) as well as www.HerdZone.com, the Marshall Athletics official site.