Five Takeaways From Week 1 Of Athletes Unlimited
We’re only one week into the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited, but the response from softball fans has been overwhelmingly positive. For the first time since early March, softball is on national TV, and many of the best players in the world have picked up right where they left off.
Here are five things we learned from the first week of action.
The scoring system benefits two-way players immensely. Two of the top four point-scorers—Samantha Show and Aleshia Ocasio—are both hitters and pitchers. Show, a member of the Gold team captained by Haylie Wagner, put on a remarkable performance in Saturday’s opener against Team Pendley (Blue), going 4-for-5 at the plate with a home run and a double and also pitching a scoreless inning in relief. She homered again in another win for Team Wagner on Sunday against Team Fagan (Purple) and also singled and walked en route to being named MVP 1. Ocasio, playing for the Orange team captained by Jessie Warren, had a strong outing in Sunday’s other game, giving up two earned runs in six innings and winning the first MVP. Expect players who can earn points on offense and in the circle to be in high demand in the coming drafts.
The ball is flying out of Parkway Bank Sports Complex. The Rosemont, Ill. home of the NPF’s Chicago Bandits is not exactly known as a hitter-friendly yard—the outfield fence is 210 feet from home plate down each foul line. But when the famous Chicago breeze is blowing out toward Lake Michigan, the results can be nightmarish for pitchers. Four games saw one team reach double figures in scoring, with Team Wagner putting up 18 runs against Team Pendley on Saturday. The ball was especially carrying to right-center field, with Gwen Svekis and Sahvanna Jaquish each hitting one out that way to the opposite field.
Cat Osterman is still, well, Cat Osterman. The 37-year-old, who pitched for the U.S. in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, was on the roster for Tokyo this summer before the Games were postponed to 2021. And she’s proving how lethal a force she can still be if the Olympics take place next year. The lefty threw five shutout innings for Team Warren on Saturday against Team Fagan, and then against a powerful Team Wagner offense on Monday evening, Osterman tossed a complete-game shutout. She threw 12 scoreless innings on the weekend, allowing just six hits and four walks while striking out 19, giving her 144 points from her pitching statistics alone.
The defense has been on point. From the first inning of the first game, infielders and outfielders alike were flashing the leather. Aubrey Leach and Nerissa Myers both made sparkling plays at second base, as did Megan Wiggins and A.J. Andrews in the outfield. Team Wagner turned three beautiful double plays against Team Fagan on Sunday, led by the middle infield combination of Utah alumnae Anissa Urtez at shortstop and Hannah Flippen at second. Team Warren made several nice plays in the field in support of Osterman during her shutout of Team Wagner on Monday night.
The captains for Week 2 are set. Osterman, with 544 total points, will captain the Gold team next week. Show, who was 6-for-9 on the weekend with two doubles and two home runs, had the second-most points (524) and will lead the Blue team. Victoria Hayward benefitted from being on Team Warren, which won all three games, and she went 5-for-11 with a homer in those three games to secure the third-most points (490), meaning she will be in charge of the Orange team. And Ocasio, with her strong outing in the circle on Sunday, had the fourth-most points (464) and will captain the Purple team in Week 2. Just missing the cut were Leach, Erika Piancastelli and Warren, who all recorded 440 points.