Chicago Bandits will compete for fifth Cowles Cup against fastpitch rival USSSA Pride

The Bandits are playing in their eighth National Pro Fastpitch softball championship series, while the Pride will be in their ninth.

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After clinching the regular season title the Bandits will play the USSSA Pride for a shot at their fifth Cowles Cup

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After her team’s 9-1 victory over the Beijing Eagles on Aug. 7, Chicago Bandits coach Lauren Lappin sat in the office of general manager Toni Camelyn staring at her phone while players signed autographs on the field.

She was watching the final pitch between the USSSA Pride and the Aussie Peppers with assistant coach Amber Flores.

“I saw that they [USSSA Pride] were down 1-0 and it was the last inning,” Lappin said.

A couple of hours earlier, Lappin and her team had no idea what exactly a victory against the Eagles would mean.

They knew it was tight down the stretch and they knew they sat at the top of the standings, but their focus didn’t stretch far beyond that. After a quick math session that morning, she realized a win for her Bandits and a loss for the Pride would clinch her team’s first regular-season title since 2013.

“I had my blinders on so hardcore that I finally was like, ‘What are our numbers, what has to happen for us to clinch?’ ” Lappin recalled. “The players didn’t know that, but after the game, I told them. It was pretty special.”

On Thursday, Lappin and the Bandits will face the Pride in the championship series and it’s familiar territory for both teams.

The Bandits are playing in their eighth championship series, while the Pride will be in their ninth. It’s the sixth time these two franchises are playing each other for the Cowles Cup, and each team has won four titles.

Lappin is not only familiar with this series but this rivalry in particular. In 2010, she was part of the Pride’s championship team that beat the Bandits 7-2.

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Head coach of the Bandits, Lauren Lappin played four seasons with the USSSA Pride.

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“It’s a strong rivalry,” Lappin said. “The top players in the world are spread between these two rosters and that’s the case once again.”

The Bandits are riding a 16-game winning streak, including two wins to close the regular season against the Pride.

Thursday at 7 p.m., the Bandits host Game 1 of the series at the Ballpark at Rosemont. Despite losing the Cowles Cup in a three-game sweep to the Pride last season, revenge isn’t the focus.

“We haven’t talked about it at all,” Bandits pitcher Rachele Fico said. “When you look back at last year, it was heartbreaking. It stuck with all of us for a while but I think everyone that has returned has let go of that now. We’re focused on this year and this team. It’s a really special group.”

Fico, the NPF leader in wins with 11, has been dubbed the “Fico Factor” and will start on the mound Thursday.

As practice concluded Wednesday, there was a sense of calm hanging in the air. Players were dancing around the infield, laughing as they walked to the mound to meet Lappin for the final message before game day.

There was a strong sense that despite this being familiar territory, something about this 2019 Bandits team is different.

“Out of my five years of playing here, this is the most special it’s ever felt,” Bandits center fielder Brenna Moss said. “I feel like we’re going to win it in three.”

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