CHARLESTON, S.C. - A familiar face to Charleston Southern University will be in the third base coaching box of the National Pro Fastpitch perennial power Chicago Bandits this season as CSU head softball coach Shane Winkler begins his first season at the helm of the Bandits.
Winkler, fresh off of taking the Charleston Southern softball program to the 2014 Big South Conference Championship title and the first NCAA Regional berth in program history, is back for his second stint with the Bandits organization after serving as an assistant coach with the organization during the 2009 season. He also served as an assistant coach for the Akron Racers in 2007.
"I'm honored and blessed to be back coaching in the NPF," Winkler said. "This is the highest level of softball in the world and it's exciting to have the opportunity to lead the Bandits this summer. We've got a very talented roster and I'm looking forward to competing for a championship."
This past season at Charleston Southern, the Buccaneers are coming off of arguably the best season in program history with their first postseason berth in the NCAA tournament. Winker's guidance was key during the stretch run with the Bucs as the head coach deftly mixed a roster filled with an influx of freshmen talent and senior leadership into a conference title run.
"The Big South Championship run was big for our program, but more importantly it put CSU softball on the national stage where we could glorify God," Winkler commented. "That's what our program is all about. Coaching in the NPF is an even bigger platform to do so. I'm very blessed to be a part of two championship organizations."
Winkler takes over the reins of the Bandits one year after Chicago fell to the USSSA Pride in a best-of-three series for the 2013 NPF Cowles Cup Championship. The Bandits made their way to the postseason after clinching the 2013 regular season championship with a roster that featured the NPF Player of the Year in outfielder Megan Wiggins, as well as the Rookie of the Year (Andi Williamson), Jennie Finch Award winner (Vicky Galindo). Four players were also named to the All-NPF team as well following a season which saw Chicago go 36-12 overall.
Wiggins, Williamson, Monica Abbott and Tammy Williams all return to the Bandits roster this season, as well as another friendly face for Winkler in the dugout in current Charleston Southern assistant coach Kristen Butler.
Butler, in her third season with the Bandits, has served as one of the primary catchers and designated players on the roster. She is also one of the top hitters in NPF history, nearing the organization's career marks in home runs and RBI.
"Shane will be a very good coach for the Bandits this summer," Butler had to say. "He is no stranger to the league, and knows what it takes to win in this highly skilled and competitive atmosphere. Coming off of a great season for the Bucs, I know he is ready to win another Championship! The team and I are excited to have him."
The Bandits begin the season with an exhibition game against the Indiana Slammers on Sunday, May 25 at 5 p.m. at The Ballpark at Rosemont. The team's first regular season home game will be on Saturday, May 31 against the Akron Racers. For additional information on the Bandits visit them on the web at www.chicagobandits.com or call the office at (877) 722-6348.
About Chicago Bandits
Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch players to further their careers at a professional level, and the roster has included such names as Jennie Finch, Stacy May-Johnson and Monica Abbott. The two-time NPF Champions play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the country built for a women's professional team. The 2014 season will be the Bandits 10th season in the NPF.
About National Pro Fastpitch
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women's fastpitch softball and has been since 2002.