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  • 18 Feb
    导出博客文章TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Speaking about a former teammate who had just ended her
    season Sunday, Monica Abbott described Chicago Bandits veteran Danielle
    Zymkowitz as a rallier.As in, one who rallies those around her.The qualities
    Abbott was talking about make the longest-serving player on the Chicago roster
    -- now in her sixth season in a league when making it half that long makes a
    player grizzled -- an important part of the culture of a franchise that annually
    punches above its supposed weight.She has been there before. The Bandits have
    been there before.And it is a franchise that is at it again after its 11-5 win
    against the top-seeded USSSA Pride leveled the best-of-three National Pro
    Fastpitch championship series and set up a winner-take-all finale in a softball
    rivalry every bit as special as that between the United States and Japan or
    Arizona and UCLA.What Zymkowitz began with a bloop single over the head of the
    shortstop in the bottom of the fourth inning, veteran teammate Brittany
    Cervantes completed with a much longer but no less arcing home run off the light
    pole in left field in the sixth inning. From the brink of elimination, the
    Bandits won by scoring more runs than any team scored against the Pride this
    season.The Bandits finished the regular season with a losing record, a rarity
    for them. They werent supposed to win a semifinal series against the ScrapYard
    Dawgs, the team that signed away Abbott this spring. But here the Bandits are on
    level footing with the Pride with one game left in the season, the same two
    teams left to settle a championship for the sixth time in the past seven
    years.You asked who would we rather face, the Prides Megan Wiggins said. In all
    honesty I would have rather faced ScrapYard because I know the type of team [the
    Bandits] are. It doesnt matter the opponent that theyre playing, it doesnt
    matter the pitcher that theyre facing.She should know. She was the thorn in the
    Prides side when she played for the Bandits.For the fourth time in as many
    postseason games, the Bandits scored first. With one out in the bottom of the
    third inning, Taylor Edwards drilled a pitch deep into the Tuscaloosa night for
    a home run. If the lead was familiar territory to the Bandits, it was unfamiliar
    to the Pride, their first deficit of the playoffs. It didnt seem to bother the
    best lineup in the league. The Pride rallied for two runs in the top of the
    fourth to take the lead.But instead of the beginning of the end for the team
    that presumably needed every break to fall its way, the Bandits made it the
    beginning of the fun. They answered the Prides runs with five of their own in
    the bottom of the fourth inning, Zymkowitzs bloop preceding, in due time, Jill
    Barretts three-run home run that pushed the lead to 6-2.The Pride answered again
    in the top of the fifth inning to cut the lead to 6-5. And again the Bandits
    answered in kind. Zymkowitz lined a double in the bottom of the inning that was
    the first step toward two more runs and an 8-5 lead. This time the see-saw never
    budged. The Pride went quietly in the top of the sixth inning, and Cervantes
    three-run home run in the bottom of that inning provided the exclamation
    mark.The Pride lineup Monday night included hitters ranked first, sixth, eighth
    and 15th in NCAA career home runs. That list didnt even include former Olympian
    Kelly Kretschman, the NPF MVP this season. Or Wiggins, a former MVP and an
    all-league selection the past six seasons who made the rich richer when she
    moved.In Zymkowitz and Cervantes, the Bandits lineup had at its heart two
    veterans who went undrafted and made the team by way of open tryouts in 2011 and
    2012, respectively. Coach Michael Steuerwald said 45 players might show up for
    those annual tryouts, more than half of them former Division I players. Out of
    that mass, the team might find one or two who could help.No team more
    consistently finds talent that others overlooked, Zymkowitz and Cervantes the
    descendants of former finds like Amber Patton and Tammy Williams. And the former
    pair may, in turn, hand over that mantle to the likes of Megan Blank, the former
    Iowa standout who signed with the Bandits out of a tryout a year ago and had two
    hits and an RBI in Mondays game.I think everyone knows the level of talent
    across the country is incredible, Steuerwald said. Theres girls that arent
    playing in this league that could be and should be. And hopefully they have more
    opportunities as years come along. But for us, its a huge thing. We look at
    players that might not be drafted. For Cerv, [Kentucky] sent up film of her and
    we said Hey, can we get her to tryouts. The story isnt always exactly the same
    -- rookie pitcher Shelby Turnier, so poised in relief in both this game and the
    elimination game a day earlier against ScrapYard, was a prized second-round
    pick, as was starting pitcher Michelle Gascoigne in 2014. Barrett was a
    fourth-round find, but it was Akron that found her. The Bandits paid a
    first-round price to acquire her last fall.But the essence of the Bandits is in
    stories like those of Cervantes and Zymkowitz. Always in the shadow of the
    Pride, the Bandits perpetually play with something to prove. The entire first
    round that was selected in the 2012 draft is now out of the league. Cervantes
    has another game to play Tuesday.Cervantes played sparingly as a rookie in 2012.
    She recorded just 50 at-bats and eight hits for the summer. But the talent that
    made her one of the best run producers in the SEC matured in the professional
    game. She was the NPF offensive player of the year a season ago and ranks fourth
    in the league in on-base percentage this season. She is one of the best hitters
    in the world and has looked the part here with eight hits in five postseason
    games.After our final game [at Kentucky], I knew I wasnt done yet, Cervantes
    said. Even though I knew I wasnt playing [as an NPF rookie], I knew I was
    getting better, just by watching the people above me, like Vicky Galindo, Tammy,
    Amber, Shannon [Doepking] and Monica. Everybody was still helping me become a
    better player. Its fun to see the hard work kind of pay off.She and the Bandits
    manage a difficult balancing act, playing with a chip on their shoulders without
    seeming churlish. She used the word fun, and that genuinely seems to describe
    them. Steuerwald said this particular group was the most fun he has been around
    in Chicago -- even when it wasnt winning or playing particularly well early this
    year.But there is also an edge to them. Cervantes said the bat flip that
    followed a Wiggins home run in the opening game of the title series wasnt a
    source of motivation, but she made clear that there was some extra motivation
    stoking a rivalry that already burned hot.So often, too often and too easily,
    the lament is offered about womens sports that there arent enough upsets, there
    isnt enough parity. It is too often Serena Williams or the Connecticut womens
    basketball team marching to titles.The naysayers should take the time to watch
    the finale in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night.There will be a great team that should
    win. There will be another team that believes it will win.And which team does is
    anyones guess. Like any real rivalry.Some of our vets have played in three, four
    championship series now, so theyre not scared of the situation, Steuerwald said.
    But at the same time, I think if you asked everyone in the softball world should
    we be going to Game 3 against the Pride tomorrow night, you probably would have
    won a lot of money in Vegas. Discount
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    . Arsenal failed to take full advantage of its main rivals stumbles on Saturday
    as substitute Gerard Deulofeu levelled with a hard shot from a tight angle in
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    also left injured defenders Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba out
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