America’s biggest pro softball league championship is this weekend and it’s gonna be quite good

Lima 2019 Pan Am Games - Day 15

Photo by Leonardo Fernandez/Getty Images

Plus, there’s even more great softball on this week.

As ever, there are plenty of sports to watch. We live in an era without offseasons, though sometimes the insatiable maw of the sports content machine makes it feel otherwise.

One sport in the thick of some sneakily exciting competition — and getting only a fraction of the already-minimal attention it receives during its collegiate season peak — is softball. At every level, the wholly underrated sport is in the midst of some of its best match-ups besides the inimitable Women’s College World Series (which … if you missed it, you missed some of the most exciting games of the year).

The U.S. Women’s National Softball Team is ramping up for Tokyo 2020, where softball will return to the Olympics for the first time in over a decade. The sport was excluded from the 2012 and 2016 games (along with baseball) for being too U.S.-centric. They won gold last weekend in a tight 3-1 final at the Pan-American Games over Canada, the reigning champs. Ace Monica Abbott tallied 48 strikeouts in four games, the most of anyone at the tournament; the former Tennessee standout also holds just about every NCAA pitching record, and three years ago became the first-ever National Pro Fastpitch player to sign a $1 million contract.

Speaking of which: Yes, there is a professional American softball league (to the surprise of many, including NFL player Dede Westbrook) — and its best-of-five championship series starts tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET (if you’re based near Chicago, there are still tickets available along with an enviable-looking tailgate).

This year’s National Pro Fastpitch finals are between two longtime rivals: the Chicago Bandits and the USSSA Pride. The Pride swept the Bandits last season, but this time Chicago is coming in with a stacked roster as the regular-season champs. Bandits catcher Amanda Chidester has the biggest bat in the league (to the tune of a .814 slugging percentage) and rookie Abbey Cheek is close behind (.378 batting average, the best in NPF).

The Pride are underdogs, despite being in position to defend their title, but you can never count out a team with just-graduated Oklahoma stars Sydney Romero and Shay Knighten, as well as extremely clutch Golden Glove finalist Jessie Warren. You can find an in-depth preview here.

Finally, tonight is the Little League Softball World Series championship game, airing on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET. Southeast (Rowan Little League from Salisbury, North Carolina) and Southwest (Eastbank Little League from New Orleans) will face off for the title, with middle schoolers throwing over 60 mph underhand, as one does.

Read more at SB Nation.

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