Keilani Ricketts and Jessica Shults are playing for the first-place USSSA Pride (20-8), while Michelle Gascoigne and the Chicago Bandits (17-9) are two games back in second place. All three players are in their second seasons with their respective organizations.
Shults has appeared in 13 of 28 games for the Pride, but in her limited time as posted an impressive batting line of .316/.435/.526 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). She’s collected six hits in 19 at-bats with a double, home run, four walks and one sacrifice. She ranks third on the team in both OBP and OPS (on-base + slugging).
After making her season debut on June 15, Shults was in an 0-7 slump after five games but has picked up her play as of late by batting .500 (6-12) over her past eight games. Her first hit of the season was a bases-clearing double against the Akron Racers on June 24 in a 13-2 win for the Pride.
Two games later, Shults hit her first homer of the season off Gascoigne in a 6-4 loss to the Bandits. The solo shot tied the game at 4-4 in the fourth but Chicago pulled away late to get the win. The contest marked Shults’ best performance of the year as she was 2-2 with an RBI and run scored.
Most recently, Shults was 2-5 in a three-game series against Akron with a pair of walks.
Ricketts has appeared in eight games this season for the Pride with six appearances in the circle, including four starts. At the plate, Ricketts has three singles in 10 at-bats and a walk for a .300/.364/.300 hitting line. In the circle, Ricketts has gone 2-3 with a save. She’s struck out 18 and walked just six with a 2.63 earned run average in 18.2 innings of work.
All three of Ricketts’ hits on the season have come in her past two games. On July 12 she was 2-4 against Akron before adding a single against the Racers again on July 15.
After struggling in her first pitching appearance of the season on June 14 in which she gave up three runs in two innings, Ricketts has righted the ship and posted a 1.73 ERA over her last five outings, which cover 15.2 innings.
Ricketts collected her save on June 23 when she struck out four and allowed just one hit in three innings of work, while her first win came in her next outing on June 26 against the Bandits when she recorded a season-high six strikeouts in 3.1 innings with no hits or walks allowed.
Gascoigne has made nine appearances for Chicago with five starts, going 3-2 with a save. She boasts an impressive 1.52 ERA, which ranks fifth in the NFP, with 34 strikeouts to eight walks in 41.1 innings pitched.
In her season debut against Akron on June 6 she pitched the game’s final three innings with four strikeouts and no runs or walks allowed to earn the save. Later in the series, she collected her first win by throwing a season-high seven strikeouts.
Gascoigne’s best outing of the season came on July 4 against Akron as she notched her first complete-game effort of the season to earn her third win. She matched her season high with seven strikeouts and yielded two runs, though only one of which was earned.There is roughly one month left in the regular season before the NPF Championship, Aug. 20-23 in Hoover, Ala.
/// SoonerSports PR