Bandits Keep Talent Close to Home for 2009 NPF Draft
By: Sarah Russell
President and CEO of the Chicago Bandits, Bill Sokolis, went to the 2009 NPF draft with the mindset of finding the highest quality players with the best fit for the program as well as the ability to mesh well with the coaching staff. After seeing the crop of talent the Bandits wrangled through the five rounds, it is safe to say that he achieved his mission.
With the first selection and fifth pick overall, the Bandits landed Brandice Balschmiter from the University of Massachusetts. Balschmiter is a dominant force in the circle proving to be a seasoned competitor earning a copious amount of awards to her name during her collegiate career. The right handed hurler started out her senior year on a high note garnering ESPN Pre-season All-American Second Team. During her first three seasons as a Minutewoman, Balschmiter was a three-time Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year, three-time Easton All-American, three-time First Team NFCA All-Northeast Region and two-time A-10 All-Tournament Team.
The Bandits looked no further than their backyard for their second selection and tenth pick overall, selecting Tammy Williams from Northwestern University. Williams has been the cornerstone of consistency at shortstop for the Wildcats the past two seasons. In both ’07 and ’08 she started every game at SS while breaking the NU single-season batting average record with a .440 average and on-base record with a .538 on base percentage in 2008. In ’07, Williams set a school record with her 24-game hit streak.
Looking for a solid force to tag team behind the plate with 2008 Rookie of the Year Rachel Folden, the Bandits choose for their third pick and 14th overall selection Jamie Schloredt from Sacramento State University. Schloredt is a three-time First Team All-Conference honoree as well as the 2008 Pacific Coast Softball Conference Player of the Year. She was named Second Team All-West Region after completing a career season in which she led the PCSC in batting average (.408), slugging percentage (.737), on-base percentage (.513) and home runs (12). She is the career record holder in home runs (28), RBIs (117), batting average (.369) and walks (78).
With the fourth selection and the 15th pick overall, the Bandits snagged Jessica Valis from the University of Houston. Valis brings more versatility to the roster with her ability to cover infield positions. During her tenure as a Cougar, Valis earned Third Team NFCA All-American (2008), two-time First Team All-Conference USA, two-time Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, 2007 Conference USA Player of the Year and 2006 Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
Citing great coaching from former Bandit Co-Head Coach and current DePaul University Head Coach, Eugene Lenti, Sokolis selected local talent Amber Patton as their fifth pick and 20th overall selection from DePaul University. Patton is a proven leader at third base raking in a laundry list of awards to her name. She was an NFCA Second Team All-American selection, a three-time All-BIG EAST selection, a member of the Big East Championship All-Tournament Team and the team’s Most Outstanding Player. Patton also ranked first in all-time records at DePaul for most sacrifice hits with 45.
Holding down the Bandits’ sixth and final selection 25th overall pick is Izmena Cabrera from Sacramento State University. Cabrera started all 53 games for the Hornets in 2008. She was a First Team All-West Region and All-PCSC selection who started all 53 games in left field. She batted .375, and led the team in hits (63), doubles (14), RBIs (53), average with runners in scoring position (.435) and multiple-RBI games (13). Cabrera broke records in RBIs with 53 and ranked 17th in the nation with her average of 1.00 RBIs per game. She also ranked top five in the PCSC in batting average, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage, hits, on-base percentage, RBIs and home runs.
When asked by NPF Commissioner, Cheri Kempf, about the outlook of next season, Sokolis said, “I have surrounded myself with good talent on and off the field and I’m excited for the season to get underway. Most importantly Sokolis added, “I am looking to repeat and defend our World Champion Title.”
In other NPF draft news, the Akron Racers took Katie Cochran as the first overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Due to NCAA regulations, an active college senior-athlete is not eligible to sign with her respective franchise until her 2009 season is completed.