NPF Draft Draws High Powered NCAA Talent
Written by By Dave Utnik
Memphis, TN -- They were prepared to go with Plan B. Championship teams always have multiple options in mind on draft day. Chicago Bandits owner, Bill Sokolis, and general manager, Aaron Moore, knew they would get a potential star with the No. 2 overall pick.
So they mapped out scenarios to fill their roster with rookies who could make an impact in 2012.
"We knew coming in to the draft that we had a couple of holes to fill in the roster, both offensively and defensively," Moore said.
The Bandits have a well-deserved reputation for scouting and developing talented players. And Moore is convinced that University of Washington outfielder Kimi Pohlman, will be a star one day.
Only he figured it would be for another team.
"Bill and I had several plans in place going into the draft and we really thought Kimi was going to go No. 1 to the [USSSA] Pride," Moore said. "When a player like Kimi Pohlman is there at No. 2 you have to jump at it."
Two years ago, the Bandits chose Michigan lefty Nikki Nemitz with their first pick. She went on to win rookie of the year honors. The reigning National Pro Fastpitch champions believe they have another potential ROY candidate in Pohlman, who led the Huskies to the NCAA championship last spring by hitting .432 with 25 stolen bases and 57 runs scored.
"There are a lot of things to like about her. She’s a complete player and has a chance to compete for Rookie of the Year honors," said Moore, after the Bandits used the first of their four picks to select Pohlman in the first round. "We feel like Kimi brings more speed and the ability to be a table-setter for the big hitters we have behind her."
When the Pride passed on Pohlman, selecting LSU ace Brittany Mack with the first pick of the draft on March 8, Moore didn't really need any of the extensive research that was laid out before him. The player the Bandits wanted all along was there for the taking.
"Kimi can be plugged into several parts of our lineup. There’s a good chance our lineup can have two rookies at the top if you throw [second-round pick] Katie Schroeder into the mix. The adjustment period for everyone will be short, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens."
Bandits' rookies are seldom bench dwellers. They are expected to contribute to a team with championship aspirations. And the 2012 class is no exception.
Schroeder, an outfielder from UCLA, was the 6th overall pick. And she's a potential starter as well with over 200 collegiate hits and all-PAC 10 honors on her resume. Northwestern infielder Adrienne Monka -- the 20th overall pick -- has 41 career homers and was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2009, while third-round pick Stephanie Ricketts has been named WAC Pitcher of the Year twice at Hawaii.
"Our rookies have and always will be asked to come in and contribute right away, Moore said. "The players we select are with a distinct purpose. We’ve been fortunate in years past to be able to draft great players that fill holes for us. The 2012 season should be a lot of fun."
The Pride, who reached the championship series last summer, had four picks in the first two rounds and used them wisely to create another contending team. Mack, who plays for Pride coach Beth Torina at LSU, earned All-American honors last season after going 20-7 with a 1.74 ERA and 209 strikeouts. She joins Olympic gold medalist, Cat Osterman, to create a formidable pitching rotation.
With seven picks overall, the Pride added tremendous depth to an already talented team. General Manager Don DeDonatis orchestrated a trade last July to acquire the Diamonds first-round pick and wound up taking UCLA's versatile Andrea Harrison with the fourth overall pick.
The Diamonds, who moved from Tennessee to North Carolina, didn't have a pick until the third round but still wound up with an impact player in Sara Plourde, who owns the UMass career strikeout record. Plourde, who set a record by striking out 16 batters in a no-hitter against Quinnipiac in March, 3, joins a squad that features former UNC All-American Danielle Spaulding.
The Diamonds are creating a lot of buzz in Kannapolis, where most of the team's home game will be played.
There is excitement building in Akron as well with the arrival of first-round draft pick Lexy Bennett from the University of Texas.
"Lexy, first and foremost, was our first selection because of her nearly flawless defensive skills. She is so versatile in that she can play anywhere in the infield and not miss a beat. The fact that she has the ability to be a force offensively made her worthy of a first round selection. Her outstanding attitude and work ethic add to what I believe to be a perfect fit for the Racers, said Racers co-owner and general manger Joey Arrietta."Bennett is the complete package and she will be a tough out."
Arrietta has assembled a roster filled with tough outs by adding free agents Aja Paculba (2B), Brianna Hesson (OF) and 2011 NPF catcher of the year Katelyn Castillo and six rookies to a lineup that already boasts 2008 NPF Championship MVP Nicole Trimboli and all-NPF catcher Sam Marder.
"We plugged a lot of holes in the Racers lineup that will provide us with better at bats all the way up and down the lineup. I believe the addition of these players improves our ability to score, play solid defense and give our pitchers the help they need to close out games," Arrietta said. "Obviously Bennett will be an impact player but I truly believe all six [draft picks] have the potential to challenge for positions in the starting lineup."
Shortstop Alicia Herron, from Ohio State is the reigning 2011 USA Softball Player of the Year, while Michigan third baseman Amanda Chidester and Cal outfielder Jamia Reid have already earned All-American honors. Arizona State's Hillary Bach and Jen Mineau, from Fordham, add depth to a good pitching rotation.
"My job is to find the best fit for our program; the rest is up to the individual players including the veterans. No question we were looking for help in the circle. Lisa Norris and Kristina Thorson become much more effective if we can expand the rotation. Bach is having a stellar season at ASU and Mineau has turned in two no-hit performances [this season]," Arrietta said. "Chidester adds a huge stick and depth at third and behind the plate. Herron gives yet another huge stick and helps solidify our middle infield. Reid is the speedster we needed. When you stack it all up, we added depth at every position, In fact, we are now at least two deep everywhere on the diamond. Recently, we have not been successful at obtaining what I consider the complete team. I believe the 2012 is that complete team.
"We made a huge step forward both offensively and defensively. The draft class and the free agents give us the missing pieces we needed to move up and challenge for the regular season title."
2012 NATIONAL PRO FASTPITCH DRAFT
(1) USSSA Florida Pride - Brittany Mack
(2) Chicago Bandits - Kimi Pohlman
(3) Akron Racers - Lexy Bennett
(4) USSSA Florida Pride - Andrea Harrison
(5) USSSA Pride - Kristyn Sandberg
(6) Chicago Bandits - Katie Schroeder
(7) Akron Racers - Hillary Bach
(8) USSSA Florida Pride - Valerie Arioto
(9) Carolina Diamonds - Sara Plourde
(10) Chicago Bandits - Stephanie Ricketts
(11) Akron Racers - Amanda Chidester
(12) USSSA Florida Pride - Michelle Moultrie
(13) Carolina Diamonds - Kelsi Weseman
(14) Akron Racers - Alicia Herron
(15) Akron Racers - Jen Mineau
(16) USSSA Florida Pride - Nikia Williams
(17) Carolina Diamonds - Angel Bunner
(18) Chicago Bandits - Adrienne Monka
(19) Akron Racers - Jamia Reed
(20) USSSA Florida Pride - Christi Orgeron