CORPUS CHRISTI - The girls of summer are coming back to Whataburger Field.
Professional softball returns to Corpus Christi June 13-14-15 as the National Pro Fastpitch Coastal Classic pits Cat Osterman and the USSSA Pride against the Akron Racers in a reprise of last year's inaugural event.
But things are certainly different this time around.
It'll be the last chance for fans of Osterman - who recently announced her retirement after the 2013 season - to see the 30-year-old international softball icon, Houston native and four-time UT All-American pitch on Texas soil. Her farewell campaign begins June 9 at home in Osceola County (Fla.) Stadium against the New York/New Jersey Comets.
The Whataburger Field event is comprised of four contests. Single games on Thursday, June 13 and Friday the 14th begin at 7:05. Saturday's doubleheader is set for 2:30. Media partners are the Caller-Times, ClearChannel Radio and KRIS-TV. Tickets go on sale Friday, April 26 at whataburgerfield.com, cchooks.com and 361-561-HOOK (4665). The box office opens weekdays at 9 a.m.
Reserved-seat tickets are a great value: just $12 for adults and $11 for children 12-and-under. Group and Youth Team discounts available by contacting the Hooks at 561.HOOK
"Last year's event was a tremendous success, with almost 9,000 fans enjoying world-class softball right here in the Coastal Bend," Hooks VP/general manager Michael Wood noted. "With NPF, you have Olympic medalists, world champions and former college superstars competing at the highest level. They've helped grow the sport as it continues to capture the interest of girls across the country.
"The NPF players are fantastic role models, on and off the field."
Osterman thrice earned national collegiate player-of-the-year honors, going 38-4 for the Lady Longhorns while pitching them to three College World Series (2003-05-06). The lefty earned six gold medals internationally, including 2004 Olympic gold in Athens. She was a silver medalist four years later at the Beijing games. Her career Team USA record: 59-4.
Last season, Osterman went 9-4 with an NPF-leading 0.71 ERA for the 31-12 Pride.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi pitching coach Sarah Pauly also pitches for the Pride. Inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame last year, Pauly won 112 games from 2002-05, including 37 as a senior. She was 8-2 with a 2.49 ERA last year and 2013 is her ninth pro campaign.
Center fielder and former Arizona Wildcat Caitlin Lowe is a 2008 Olympic silver medalist and two-time national collegiate champion. The 2012 NPF Mizuno Player of the Year hit a league-best .440 to go with a .496 on-base percentage and 12 steals. Outfielder and Alabama product Kelly Kretschman is coming off a .373/3/24 performance.
The Pride shortstop is former UCLA star Natasha Watley (.382/2/17/11 steals), a four-time All-American, Olympic gold and silver medalist and College World Series champion. Former Lady Longhorn Megan Willis (.271/5/12) is back behind the plate.
Akron catcher Sam Marder, who played at Ohio State, topped the Racers in hitting last summer at .343/8/27 and was NPF offensive player-of-the-year.
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The Pride-Racers series is one of two main planks in Corpus Christi's June softball project. The United States Sports Specialty Association (USSSA) conducts the Texas State Tournament June 12-15 at various sites throughout the region. Age range of players is 7-18. These athletes compete during the day for the state championship and enjoy professional softball at Whataburger Field afterwards.
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About NPF: National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997. NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women's fastpitch softball.
To learn more about National Pro Fastpitch, go to profastpitch.com
For additional information on the USSSA Pride, visit USSSApride.com
Find out about the Akron Racers at akronracers.org
About Hooks Baseball/Ryan-Sanders Entertainment
Whataburger Field is utilized by Hooks Baseball - a division of Ryan-Sanders Baseball - for Texas League action and college and high school games. These are some of the events Ryan-Sanders Entertainment has presented at the venue:
Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Friends, John Mellencamp (8/2009)
Top Rank Boxing seven-fight card with Jerry Belmontes and Brandon Rios (10/2009)
Houston Dynamo vs. Laredo Heat exhibition soccer (6/2010)
Lucha Libre Mexican Wrestling (9/2010)
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas exhibition soccer (2/2011)
Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra (3/2012)
USSSA Pride vs. Akron Racers NPF softball (6/2012)
SpiritFest Corpus Christi (11/2012)
Tim Tebow Celebration of Collaborations (3/2013)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.