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Fastpitch stars should give baseballers a tough time

As a few sharp-eyed baseball hitters may learn Tuesday night, you might not want to mess with a professional softball player.

In what might be the highlight of the National Pro Fastpitch league's all-star appearance Tuesday at Appalachian Power Park, a few male hitters will take on one of America's best softball pitchers, in her element - 45 feet away, perhaps with one of those blazing-fast riseballs.

Grant Buckner, the former Herbert Hoover and West Virginia standout who is playing professionally in the Chicago White Sox organization, is scheduled to be one of three invited hitters. Two more will be selected among registrants at the event.

Kristin Call, West Virginia Power assistant general manager in charge of marketing, thinks all five will face long odds against making contact.

"A couple of years ago major league players tried it against Jenny Finch [a well-known fan favorite] and they couldn't touch her," Finch said.

The hitting challenge is among the festivities for the NPF all-stars' game against the Marshall softball team. It's the second game of the NPF's Back to School Tour, in which the stars will compete against 22 different colleges.

Gates open at 4:30 p.m., with a fan fest that includes inflatable games and a silent auction to benefit MU softball. A photo and autograph session with NPF and MU players runs from 5-6:15 p.m. and the game starts at 7:30.

Advance tickets are $7 for box seats and $5 for general admission, with prices on the day of the game going to $9 and $7. Tickets can be purchased at wvpower.com, by calling 304-344-2287 or at the Power box office.

Tuesday will be the only tour date that is not strictly on campus. Marshall has a good softball complex but wanted to reach a wider audience in Charleston. Power officials have tried to land such an event before.

The connection to Marshall: The 12-woman all-star roster includes former Herd players Rachel Folden and Amanda Williams. There are also several Olympians on the roster (the sport was discontinued in the Olympics beginning this year).

The home plate at the APP will be used, with the pitching circle and bases adapted to softball regulation lengths. A temporary outfield fence will be erected, about 210 feet away.

The stars will not take it easy on the Herd or anybody else - they are 41-1, with the only loss to Oklahoma last fall.

For Herd pitcher Andi Williamson, this could be the game of her life.

"It's a huge opportunity to go against these hitters," said MU coach Shonda Stanton. "The amount of girls that play softball, very few get the chance to play Division I, and very few get to play on the four teams in the pro league. For us to have the opportunity to compete against them, that's big."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com.

 


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