2015 Fordham Softball – Week 8

Sunday, March 8, 2015 – Off Weekend / Bronx, New York

After four consecutive weekends on the road, we Rams were treated to a weekend at Fordham, free of traveling and games. During this time off from playing, we had the opportunity to rest our bodies and minds a bit, reflect on the past four weeks of play, and like always, use our time in the gym and at practice to improve. Check out the highlights from our off weekend:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 5 / Playing the Game Like Prisoners Set Free

Thursday, February 12, 2015 – University of South Florida / Tampa, Florida

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

It’s funny where writing inspiration comes from sometimes. For me, it’s usually through circumstances and conversations, even transitory thoughts or words that unintentionally pop into my mind. Today, it came from the back of a leather airplane seat. A most unlikely place.

For the 40 minutes of idle time during which we were stuck on the runway at LaGuardia Airport aboard our mid-afternoon JetBlue flight, I casually flip-flopped between small talk with those around me and the calming escape of my headphones, in order to ease my anxious anticipation of our impending takeoff. Just before our plane’s wheels circled towards the sky, the familiar sight of a ball field on the small, soundless television screen in front of me naturally caught my eye. Intrigued, my headphones immediately shifted from the inside of my primordial iPod into the armrest connecting me to the previously silenced words from the moving mouths on the screen.

In a matter of minutes, an impressive New York Times Op-Docs video piece took me through the story of the San Quentin Giants – a baseball team unlike any of the ones I had previously been familiar with. It featured prisoners who were afforded the opportunity to play baseball despite their incarceration at the San Quentin Bay Prison in San Francisco. Baseball not only gave these men a physical outlet away from their prison cells, but it also provided them with a mental escape from the confines of their pasts, as well as a way to learn about themselves and cope with their current realities.

I gained a great amount of perspective from watching the Times’ moving seven-minute feature, and of course, thought about how I could apply the San Quentin Giants’ story to ours.

What stuck with me most after viewing the video piece were the prisoners’ beautiful descriptions about how baseball made them feel. One man called the game “a relief.” Another said, “When I am on that field, I am not locked up.”

During a week in which it felt like we were just going through the motions, at practice and otherwise, as we were similarly (though not nearly as drastically) confined to the four walls of the Lombardi Center, these were just the words I needed to hear to be reminded about what a tremendous blessing it is to play this great game every day.

Perhaps things felt differently this week due to a combination of tiredness from school and practice, and the letdown from returning indoors after playing in beautiful Arizona weather. Whatever it might have been, I believe the reality of the 55-game grind ahead hit us collectively, whether consciously or subconsciously, and caused our week to drag a bit.

Oftentimes, the hectic lifestyle of the Division I student-athlete experience causes the actual games themselves to get lumped in with the sometimes stressful undertakings leading up to competition. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling overwrought while playing; haunted by looming statistics and a fear of failure.

It is vital for us to remember, this weekend and always, that the practicing, lifting, and long days of classes that turn into late nights of homework are the hard parts of the experience. The games, however, are supposed to be fun; the times when our hard work and God-given abilities are demonstrated. The times when we should experience feelings of relief like the San Quentin Giants did. The times when we should relinquish the stifling grips our minds often have over our bodies, which hinder our physical performances. It’s time for us to play like prisoners set free.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 4 / Familiar Feelings and Anything But

Thursday, February 5, 2015 – Kajikawa Classic / Tempe, Arizona

Familiarity. It’s what gives one ease about the unknowns that are to come. Familiar faces, experiences, routines, and feelings. All combined, they create an ineffable sense of security in a life, and a sport like softball, that is full of uncertainties.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

The familiarity of this past day spent sorting through freshly cleaned laundry, packing duffle bags, double-checking lists while boarding a bus en route to JFK airport; Paige in the seat to my right, Michele in front, Serena across the aisle from her. All so familiar. Words about these seating arrangements haven’t been spoken since our first bus ride together three years ago. They are just known to us like the uniforms we wear in games and the cheers we sing from dugouts.

With buds in my ears and a glowing computer screen staring back at me while I am suspended in midair, this night spent on a crowded airplane is also familiar. So familiar, in fact, that in some ways it feels like the season isn’t beginning because it never even stopped. Like we never will stop. Like this is what we have done each week in the past and will continue to do in weeks to come.

In the midst of all this familiarity, however, are feelings I’ve never experienced before. The feeling of knowing that this is the last time for white travel shoes and the claiming of bus seats and the anticipation of the 60 games that are to come. The feeling of knowing that we have the opportunity to leave an unparalleled legacy at Fordham with our third-consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. The feeling of knowing that I’m more prepared for this season than any of the previous 15 I have endured. These feelings are new, uncomfortable even, but more than anything, exciting.

I promised my dad during winter break that I wouldn’t write this year to foster my nostalgia and cryptic musings about the end of my softball career, but simply to create something long-lasting and document the amazing journey that is to come, regardless of what happens between this first week of February and the end of May.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

I’m going to abide by my word, and I’m not going to make this a farewell tour or a weekly requiem for the end of my playing days, but rather a digital scrapbook of words, videos, and pictures to celebrate the journey I’m blessed to experience and the great game I’m fortunate to play.

While I’ll certainly find solace in the familiars I encounter in my fourth and final college softball season, I’m most excited for the unfamiliars that are surely ahead in the upcoming months. And even more than last season, I want to capture and make sense of it all so that none of my now-familiars become fleeting in the future.

As I learned last year, I know that all journeys have their peaks and valleys. I don’t expect this one to be the exception. What I also know, however, is that we are on the verge of doing something extremely special this year. Call me cliché, but I can just feel it.

We have a long way to go before our destiny is discovered, so right now, my sites are solely set on the five games on tap for this weekend at Arizona State. I can’t wait for the feeling of new cleats on top of freshly raked dirt. For old uniforms that feel new again. For unfamiliar surroundings with familiar people. For our softball family to be together again. For our hard work to be put to the test. For the start of the journey we’ve been preparing for since last May. I’m ready for the familiar and unfamiliar to collide this season and enable me to write the final chapter of a story that has been 15 years in the making. I’m ready to make this the best one yet.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 3

Game week is finally upon us! The last full week of practice is officially done, and we are all beyond excited to get outside and play on some actual dirt and grass. Week Three came with our typical hard work in preparation for the start of play, the Super Bowl, and lots and lots of snow. Through it all, we kept our sites set on Arizona, and of course, shared countless laughs in the process (just watch the video if you don’t believe me). We can’t wait to put our hard work to the test in just a few days! Before then, however, sit back and enjoy the last video before things really get fun:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 2

With Week Two now complete, we Rams are collectively excited to head into the final full-week of indoor practices before our games begin in Arizona. This week, we saw our batters dig in a little more in the box, our pitchers bring the heat in intersquad scrimmages, and our soreness diminish with each passing day in the weight room and at practice. We are working tirelessly in preparation for February 6th, and though we all have room for improvement at this stage in the season, progress is definitely being made. Catch a glimpse of our hard work (and fun) here:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 1

Week One of Fordham Softball’s 2015 season is in the books! During our first week back from winter break, we Rams got back into the full swing of things, on and off the practice diamond in the Bronx. Amid physical soreness, early mornings, stuffy indoor practices, and the loss of our strength coach, we managed to have a great first week back and make strides in our preparation for the upcoming season. Check out this Week One, behind the scenes look into what it’s like to be a Fordham Softball player:

NPF “Charges” Toward Expansion, Establishes Team in Dallas

Texas is a place where warm weather and southern hospitality are as common as the state’s appreciation for the game of softball. That is why it made perfect sense when the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) officially adopted the Lone Star State as the home of its newest team, the Dallas Charge, on Jan. 8.

NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf announced that the Charge would join the league as its fifth affiliate team, and will play its home games in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at two separate locations in McKinney and Arlington. The Charge will compete against the NPF’s four other teams—the defending champion USSSA Pride, Chicago Bandits, Akron Racers, and Pennsylvania Rebellion—when play resumes at the end of May.

The addition of the Charge is big news for the NPF, which has traditionally struggled to retain franchises and maintain ticket sales over the past ten years. The league was founded in 1997, folded in 2001, and then relaunched again in 2004.

After a decade marked with folding and moving franchises and a general lack of growth within the league, the NPF now has legitimate reasons to be excited about the future of professional softball.

Fresh off its best-ever year of television coverage in 2014, during which ESPN and the CBS Sports Network covered a combined 30 games during the three-month summer season, the NPF experienced a great surge in attendance and social media attention. Kempf believes these advances, along with the opening of a new market for professional softball, could help take the league to new heights.

“With increased attendance in all markets in 2014, along with the sheer volume of our television coverage, we realize expansion will naturally happen, but to be able to permeate into one of the nation’s hotbeds for fastpitch softball makes this addition really special,” said Kempf, the NPF’s commissioner since 2007.

Don’t let the state’s nickname fool you, however, as Texas has been anything but a “Lone Star State” for softball talent. Whether in the amateur, college, or professional ranks, Texas has been known for generating quality products on its softball diamonds for decades.

Some of the sport’s best homegrown stars have been cultivated and developed at both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, which are annually among the top teams in Division I college softball. Players like two-time Olympic gold medalist Christa Williams, All-Americans Amanda Scarborough, Blaire Luna, and Taylor Hoagland, as well as Cat Osterman, who is arguably one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, all hail from Texas and completed their illustrious college softball careers there.

With less than five months remaining until the first pitch of the NPF season, Dallas’ General Manager Kevin Shelton is hard at work assembling his team and coaching staff, with the help of marketing consultant and former NPF-great Jami Lobpries.

Shelton gained his experience in team operations while at the helm of the Texas Glory youth organization, which is one of the premiere travel softball programs in the country. Lobpries, a native of Texas and former standout player at Texas A&M, has her Ph.D. in sports marketing and branding in women’s sports, and will decide the Charge’s marketing strategies and development methods going forward.

“The NPF is growing and we are pleased to be a part of that growth to provide these gifted women a chance to compete in the sport they love as professionals,” the league’s newest GM said. “North Texas has a vibrant fastpitch community. I am confident that our entire area will benefit from a professional women’s fastpitch team’s presence.”

“Adding a team in Texas is a huge step towards growth in professional softball and the sport in general,” Lobpries, the four-year veteran of the NPF stated. “As a former NPF player and someone passionate about our sport, it’s exciting to help build a new organization in my home state and be a part of growing the game.”

If everything really is bigger in Texas, then the NPF could have found the golden market for professional softball that it has long been searching for. And if that is the case, the growth of the sport is just getting started.

Softball Stars Honor Late NCTC Players

North Central Texas College has never produced any big names in softball. In fact, NCTC’s softball team, of the National Junior College Athletic Association, doesn’t frequently play on television and has never won a national championship.

(Courtesy of the Star-Telegram)

(Courtesy of the Star-Telegram)

But, when NCTC players Brooke Deckard, Jaiden Pelton, Meagan Richardson, and Katelynn Woodlee tragically lost their lives after an 18-wheeler collided with the team’s bus following a fall ball game in September, the entire softball world was shaken. A dozen other players, as well as the team’s head coach, were also injured in the crash.

That’s why some of the sport’s biggest names were honorary Lions on Saturday at this year’s annual NCTC Softball Alumni Day.

The Gainesville, Texas community college hosted Olympic medalists Jennie Finch, Danielle Lawrie, and Lauren Lappin, who served as guest coaches at Alumni Day, while Division I All-Americans Amanda Scarborough, Taylor Hoagland, and Lauren Chamberlain also attended the event.

Chamberlain
, a current senior at the University of Oklahoma and arguably the sport’s most popular active star, was especially moved by the tragedy in September, and thus, aspired to help the NCTC team in any way she could.

“I immediately thought, what if that was my team,” the Sooner first baseman said. “It hit me hard.”

For former Olympic teammates Jennie Finch and Lauren Lappin, hundreds of miles of travel couldn’t keep them from showing support for NCTC’s softball family.

“This community has been an inspiration to the entire softball community across the country and we just hope that we can show any support that we can to the people here,” said Lappin, a Stanford standout from 2003-2006.

“This game is so much bigger than the wins, losses, and championships,” former Team USA-ace Jennie Finch disclosed. “It’s about the relationships and just showing support for the organization.”

Similarly, Danielle Lawrie, the 2009 and 2010 National Softball Player of the Year at the University of Washington, was happy to make the trip to Texas to honor the late athletes and provide support for the heartbroken community.

“It was no hesitation for me,” Lawrie said. “With the softball community, you feel really connected, you know, a special bond exists.”

This bond, shared between some of the sport’s greatest talents of all-time and junior college players alike, provided healing and unifying powers in the midst of great sadness this past weekend at NCTC.

“Everybody rallying around each other, it’s really inspiring,” said Amanda Scarborough, a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. “It’s not just inspiring to Texas. It’s not just inspiring to Dallas. It’s inspiring to the entire softball community across the country.”

Saturday’s Alumni Day included two exhibition games involving NCTC players from the past 15 years, a home run derby featuring the honorary Lions for a day, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the event went to the NCTC Angels in the Infield Scholarship Fund honoring Deckard, Pelton, Richardson, and Woodlee.

A Requiem for My Captain

From the time I was little, I studied my hero’s every move (2001).

From the time I was little, I studied my hero’s every move (2001).

I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Dave Winfield Day at Yankee Stadium, August 19, 2001. My Dad Tony and I arrived early on that scorching Sunday in the Bronx, as we did each time we ventured to The House That Ruth Built, to greet our boys of summer as they entered the Stadium. In the pre-9/11 world, Yankee fandom was quite different, as it simply took an earlier trek across the George Washington Bridge to have direct access to New York’s favorite sons; a truly personalized Yankee Stadium experience.

We watched as Paul O’Neil, Tino Martinez, and Derek Jeter approached the gates of Yankee Stadium like soldiers going off to war. While positioned along the barricade that separated me from my Yankee-favorites in suits, my Dad encouraged me to hop the fence and give Jeter a hug. I was still at an age when the bright-eyed Yankee shortstop would have been obligated to concede my embrace, thus, fulfilling my youthful aspiration to meet him.

I got one foot over the barricade before a police officer made his way over and said that since he heard my Dad encouraging the illegal act, handcuffs would be waiting for him if the deed was actually done. Needless to say, I did not meet my hero in that moment, and never was able to give him a hug. There was still batting practice to look forward to, my Dad promised.

I was eight; a budding Little League softball player and the daughter of a Yankee-loving single father. Without my mom in the picture, those days were often hard, as my Dad and I didn’t have much but each other and the small apartment we shared in Pequannock Township, New Jersey. No matter how daunting and dysfunctional our situation got at that time, the constant we both had to fall back on was that for 162 games a year, we had the New York Yankees. And most important to me, we had Derek Jeter.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment in time when I became a Derek Jeter fan, but my love for him was always deeper than that of the other little girls my age, who either thought he was dreamy or liked him because he was born in our small, suburban hometown. I didn’t want to grow up and marry Derek Jeter; I wanted to grow up and play like Derek Jeter.

As a result, I soaked up every ounce of information about Jeter that I could and became a walking fact machine for him in that summer of 2001, after reading his and Jack Curry’s book, The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams; not exactly similar to the Beverly Cleary and Andrew Clements books that adorned my eight-year-old bedroom bookshelf. I can remember reading about Jeter’s work ethic, and how he would come home during his lunch break every day in high school and take 100 swings. That really resonated with me, even as a little girl, and I never forgot it.

My first encounter with Derek Jeter (2001).

My first encounter with Derek Jeter (2001).

So, when Jeter approached me during batting practice before the Dave Winfield Day ceremony on August 19, 2001, it was naturally the best moment of my young life to date. After my failed attempt to meet Derek earlier in the day, I had been tirelessly calling out to him while standing beyond the wall of the third base line with my Dad, amongst a small group of ten or so other hopeful fans. The group of fans around us even dubbed me “Little Jeter,” as a result of the number two on my back and my fervent calls out to my hero. Derek had been fielding ground balls at shortstop in his Yankees wind-breaker, seemingly remiss to my hankering calls. But to my great surprise and eventual elation, he began back-peddling towards me and the rest of the small group of fans, and it quickly became apparent that he was making his way over to sign for us. Almost immediately, the section was blocked off, and for about five minutes, it was as though I had been chosen by him to join some exclusive clique. I had never been so happy. In those minutes, on the same day that Derek’s childhood hero Dave Winfield was being honored by the Yankees, my own personal Dave Winfield signed the brim of my over-sized hat, answered my trivial questions, and stole my heart forever.

For the next five years, my adoration for Jeter and the Yankees simultaneously grew with my love for playing softball. I was a catcher and shortstop, donning the number two on my back like my hero. I watched as Captain Clutch continuously came through for his team when they needed him most, while doing so with a certain grace and competitiveness about him that was both dignified and intimidating to opponents. I studied his mannerisms, from his calm and steady demeanor on the field, to his child-like and passionate ways of celebrating. I learned how to win from watching Derek Jeter, and thus, an insatiable desire for victory was also ingrained within me.

When my team made it to the Little League Softball World Series championship game in 2006, Jeter sent his well-wishes and told us to enjoy every minute of the experience. Ironically, my team from Pequannock, NJ (Derek’s birthplace) played and lost to Mattawan, Michigan, a town 15 minutes outside of Kalamazoo, where he grew up.

My second encounter with Jeter had me staring at him, completely starstruck (2006).

My second encounter with Jeter had me staring at him, completely starstruck (2006).

Our second place finish in the Little League Softball World Series led me to Derek Jeter, yet again, as we were invited by the Yankees to attend batting practice from the first row behind home plate. Derek once again came over to sign for me, but this time, my thirteen-year-old self could hardly form intelligible words to speak to my hero. Rather than letting him know that he had been personally responsible for providing so much happiness to my Dad and me during some of the hardest times of our lives, and was also indirectly responsible for my own softball success up to that point, I instead spent most of the fleeting moments with my Captain smiling senselessly at him. Words of that weight were nearly impossible for my teenage self to comprehend, never mind express.

It was at the Little League Softball World Series where I was forced to make a number change. When we were given new uniforms to represent the Eastern Region of the United States, our numbers were granted based on our sizes. I fought for my number two, acting as though a part of my identity was being given to a smaller-statured teammate. My requests were in vain, however, and thus, my relationship with the number eleven began. In my young mind, I was still paying homage to Derek with the double-digit number. If one looked at my back and saw Roman numerals or added one plus one to equal my cherished number two, it was still symbolic of my hero.

I continued to wear number eleven, even through high school, and later, in college. It represented my personal and unique tie to Derek Jeter, while granting me an identity away from the “Little Jeter” perception I had wanted to embody as a younger player.

When it came time to make a decision about where to attend college and play Division I softball, it seemed fitting, especially considering my Yankee and Jeter-history, that Fordham University came knocking. Just six stops on the subway from Yankee Stadium, Fordham was the closest I could get to playing for the Yankees, and once given the opportunity to play for the (other) Bronx Bombers, I couldn’t pass it up.

My decision to attend Fordham to play softball not only afforded me numerous chances to see my Captain play at the end of his career, but also use the competitiveness I learned from watching him to help lead my own team to two-consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference championships during my sophomore and junior seasons.

You could say I’ve picked up a few things from watching Jeter for so many years. (Left-Courtesy of Lodico.org; Right-Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko).

You could say I’ve picked up a few things from watching Jeter for so many years. (Left-Courtesy of Lodico.org; Right-Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

Now, in the midst of the final season of my playing career, I, too, am the captain of a championship-winning team in the Bronx, having just said goodbye to the Yankee who has shaped me, while also preparing to bid farewell to the game that has made me.

While the constant reminders of Jeter’s greatness on television, in the papers, and on social media make parting with my hero like losing a loved one, what gives me solace is knowing that his impact is not ephemeral in my life or the lives of millions of other Yankee fans.

He will live on forever in my mind and heart not as much for what he did in-between the white lines, but for what he unknowingly and unintentionally did for my soul; he invigorated my young spirit at a time when circumstances were bleak and ignited a competitive fire that has taken me to incredible heights and places in my life on the softball diamond and off of it.

The days of contemplating hopping over a barricade and giving Derek Jeter a hug are long gone, as the world has since been forever changed and that little girl is now a woman. What remains, however, are the memories of a back-peddling superstar, who heard the shouts of an adoring eight-year-old girl, stepped into her world, if only for five minutes, and became indirectly responsible for shaping so much of her life some 13 years later. For that, and a lifetime’s worth of clutch moments and championship celebrations, she’ll be forever grateful.

Recapping the Summer That Was for USA Softball

On a roster that boasts five players who are still in college, with the remainder of the team having graduated within the last two years, it is an understatement to say that this year’s Team USA squad was laden with youth. Although they lacked a significant amount of international softball experience, the Americans were still able to capture the World Cup of Softball championship, as well as the Italian Softball Week title. Despite these successes, Team Japan proved to be the American kryptonite this summer, however, as Team USA finished second to the Japanese in both the Canadian Open Fastpitch Invitational and the ISF Women’s World Championship. Take a look back at the summer that was for USA Softball.

  1. World Cup IX – Irvine, California (July 7-12)
Team USA captured the World Cup of Softball with a 5-2 win over Canada. (Courtesy of Team USA)

Team USA captured the World Cup of Softball with a 5-2 win over Canada. (Courtesy of USA Softball)

In the first major tournament of the summer, Team USA won the 2014 World Cup of Softball after defeating Canada 5-2 in the championship game. The red, white, and blue won the tournament for the seventh time in nine years, and went unbeaten with a perfect 7-0 record. In just her second summer with Team USA, Sara Nevins led the Americans in the pitching circle, finishing the week with 20 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings, and an ERA of 0.53. Veteran power-hitter Valerie Arioto belted five home runs with 12 RBI and a 1.400 slugging percentage during the tournament to lead the offensive charge for Team USA. Infielders Raven Chavanne and Lauren Gibson also had productive offensive showings at the tournament. The former college teammates at the University of Tennessee hit a combined .595, going 22-for-37 from the dish with 14 RBI.

  1. Canadian Open FP International – Surrey, B.C., Canada (July 15-21)
Amanda Chidester led the way for Team USA at the Canadian Open. (Courtesy of Team USA Softball)

Amanda Chidester led the Team USA offense at the Canadian Open. (Courtesy of USA Softball)

Team USA took second place at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International tournament after falling to Team Japan 7-0 in five innings. The Americans finished the week with an overall record of 9-3, and 3-2 in the playoff portion of the invitational. After falling to Team Canada 10-6 in the opening round of playoff action, Team USA bounced back with three straight routs over the NJCAA All-Stars, Team Mexico, and Team Canada. Amanda Chidester paced the American offense, batting .545 during the five games of playoff action, while Raven Chavanne hit a respectable.353 with 6 RBI.

  1. Italian Softball Week – Azzano, Italy (August 6-10)

Despite falling to Australia in the third game of play during Italian Softball week, Team USA bounced back to defeat the Aussies 6-2 in the tournament championship game. The Americans capped off the tournament with a 4-1 record. American outfielder Michelle Moultrie was named the tournament’s offensive champion and MVP after posting a .643 batting average, while Jolene Henderson was recognized as the pitching champion.

Sara Nevins was America's ace in 2014. (Courtesy of DennisAndersonPhotography.com)

Sara Nevins was America’s ace in 2014. (Courtesy of Dennis Anderson Photography)

  1. ISF Women’s World Championship – Haarlem, Netherlands (August 12-24)

Team USA capped off its season with a silver medal in international softball’s most prestigious tournament, the 14th annual ISF Women’s World Championship in Holland. USA finished with a tournament record of 9-2, after falling to Team Japan and its pitching ace Yukiko Ueno twice in the tournament, including a 4-1 loss in the title game. With the victory, Japan earned its second-straight and third-overall world title.

Team USA concluded the summer with an overall record of 28-6 in international play. Raven Chavanne was the top-hitting American in 2014, batting .464 for the summer. Sara Nevins turned in the best overall ERA on the USA pitching staff at 0.87.