Thursday, September 24, 2020

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Week 4 - 09/19-21/20

Last weekend, Athletes Unlimited softball started with some surprises, but ended with something familiar. Once again, Cat Osterman was at the center of the focus.
Just when it looked like Osterman was unbeatable, almost untouchable, the unthinkable happened. For the first time all season, Osterman's team lost a game and Osterman actually lost a pitching decision. You can't keep Osterman down though. She finished the weekend with a masterpiece last night.
Monday nights are magical for Osterman. In four Monday night starts, Osterman is a stunning 4-0, allowing just two runs.

Week Four Final Results:

September 19
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Reed (Orange) 2-1
Team Hayward (Blue) beat Team Osterman (Yellow) 4-1

September 20
Team Hayward (Blue) beat Team Reed (Orange) 8-3
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Osterman (Yellow) 11-0

September 21
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Hayward (Blue) 7-5
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat  Team Reed (Orange) 2-0

Team Warren (Purple) 3-0
Team Hayward (Blue) 2-1
Team Osterman (Yellow) 1-2
Team Reed (Orange) 0-3

Week 5 Team Captains
Osterman (Team Yellow), Jessie Warren (Team Orange), Piancastelli (Blue) and Ocasios (Team Purple)

The weekend saw pitching be the focus. A few pitchers took no-hitters late into games. The offenses scored a total of 44 runs, down 35 runs from last week and also a season low.
Aleshia Ocasio returned from a leave of absence and promptly threw a complete game three-hitter on Saturday. Ocasio was in the zone all weekend on the mound and at the plate. In doing so, she jumped back into the top four spots on the leader board.

Season Leader Board
1 - Osterman 1990 points
2 - Warren 1580 points
3 - Piancastelli 1510 points
4 - Ocasio 1508 points

Other highlights included Sahvanna Jaquish belting two homers on Saturday and Sunday. Also, Jaquish and Haylie McCleney went deep back-to-back on each day. In a humorous moment, Samantha Show put one over the left field wall right into the hands of AU CEO Jon Patricof, while he was being interviewed on air by Eric Collins and Danielle Lawrie. Of course, ending the week with a 2-1 pitching clinic was the capper.
The weekend media sessions featured Ocasio, Erika Piancastelli, Jessie Warren, Haylie Wagner, Jaquish, McCleney, Samantha Show, Kelly Barnhill, Morgan Howe, Jessica Burroughs, Shelby Pendley, Osterman, Gwen Svekis and Hannah Flippen. Maybe because of familiarity, the sessions seemed a bit looser and more casual than usual. The sessions are always fun, but this week seemed to have a bit more humor.
AU writer Bruce Miles handled the game situation questions as usual. Check for his game coverage.
I asked the players about a wide range of topics. With only one week of play left, several players gave their thoughts on the experience and leaving “the Shield,” as Osterman has dubbed the Rosemont facility. Clearly, the players are already emotional about the impending end of this season. While they all have played for many years, the experience of staying with each other like this was like no other.
Piancastelli and Svekis talked about being behind the plate, working with pitchers who were dominating and handling a potential no-hitter. Part is fun, part is pressure, but mostly it is simply handling a pitcher like always, with very little thought of the ongoing no-hitter.
One very interesting moment was when I asked about the next season for AU. Ocasio answered “I don't know,” but the AU Media Rep's answer was more telling. I tried for the scoop, and while I did not get one directly, the answers indicate plans might be in place, but not released to the public yet. 
I understand their thought process. AU will want to make a big announcement about next season. A scoop here would have been great for m, but not as big for AU. I will stay on it and I expect an announcement, perhaps even shortly after this season, capitalizing on the momentum built.
In a bit of a shocker, Cat Osterman (Team Yellow) made fellow lefty pitcher her number one pick in the Athletes Unlimited Week 5 draft. For the first time this season, Osterman did not make catcher Gwen Svekis her top pick, but she did take Svekis later in the draft.
In Monday's post-game press session, Osterman said she was “keeping my cards close to my chest this week.” Had she already planned on taking Wagner? Was this a late curveball? Was she just tired of battling against Wagner every week? We will ask her about that in the weekend's press sessions.
One thing is certain. Osterman wants to end the season in a strong way. A 1-2 punch of Osterman and Wagner gives Team Yellow a lethal combination. Already holding the top spot on the leader board by a large margin, Osterman looks to lock up the season championship.
With the second pick, Jessie Warren (Team Orange) took pitcher Danielle O'Toole. The lefty pitcher is the only player to be selected in the first round every week.
The rest of the first round saw Erika Piancastelli (Team Blue) pick the red hot catcher Sahvanna Jaquish and Aleshia Ocasio (Team Purple) select pitcher Jessica Burroughs. Piancastelli probably will use the versatile Jaquish at a position other than catcher, since she already has a solid one in herself.
Familiarity was the key for Ocasio in this draft. Ocasio, who had a brilliant return from a short leave of absence, selected seven players she had previously taken. Currently sitting in fourth place in the overall standings, Ocasio is looking to move up, although Osterman will be tough to catch.
In one of the strange twists caused by the unique draft system, all four of this week's captains played together on the same team in Week One. Teammates the first week, now they will battle each other to end the season.
The Athletes Unlimited Softball League has come a long way in a mere few weeks. It all comes to a big climax this weekend. Athletes Unlimited ace writer Bruce Miles vowed we (the media) “will finish strong” and we will have to do just that to match the players who will certainly finish with a memorable weekend of games.
Week 5 of Athletes Unlimited begins on Saturday, September 26 at noon CST as Team Warren faces Team Ocasio. Check for more info. Also, check here,, and for my coverage.

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