According to ESPN, ESPN+ has reached an agreement with National Pro Fastpitch to carry regular season games throughout the summer and the league’s Cowles Cup Championship Series.
The exclusive regular season slate begins with the Cleveland Comets season opener at the Chicago Bandits on Thursday, May 31, and will continue into August, featuring multiple appearances from every team in the league.
ESPN+’s first season of NPF coverage will culminate with the best-of-five championship series, which gets underway Thursday, Aug. 16. ESPN+ is the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International division in partnership with ESPN.
“ESPN+ will now offer the best in professional women’s softball, adding more exclusive live events to its dynamic and growing portfolio,” said Richard Mace, ESPN manager of Programming and Acquisitions. “In addition to a robust NPF regular season slate and the league’s championship series, fans will receive a highly personalized experience on the ESPN App and access to a multitude of professional and college games and a full library of on-demand sports content. For softball enthusiasts, ESPN+ offers hundreds of softball games each year from a variety of levels, including Little League Softball in the summer and college action throughout the spring.”
NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf is excited for the opportunity to feature the league to a broader audience.
“National Pro Fastpitch is thrilled to be included on ESPN+ during the subscription service’s inaugural year,”Kempf said. “Softball fans have come to rely on ESPN to deliver our fast-paced and entertaining sport, so to include the professional level among coverage options through ESPN+ is a perfect fit. We are looking forward to an exciting season of action, capped off with our Championship Series in August.”
In addition to their season opener, the Comets will appear on ESPN+ on June 19, July 24 and August 7 against the USSSA Pride, on August 3 against the Chicago Bandits and on June 26 against the Aussie Spirit.
Highlighted games of the ESPN+ coverage include:
- Cleveland Comets vs. Chicago Bandits (May 31, at 8 p.m. and Aug 3, at 7 p.m.): The first game on the ESPN+ schedule features the four-time Cowles Cup Champions Bandits hosting the Comets (formerly known as the Akron Racers). The Bandits currently hold the most Cowles Cup titles of any team in the league, and were the professional home of softball legend Jennie Finch. Both teams will appear six times on ESPN+ this season.
- USSSA Pride vs. Beijing Eagles (July 3 and July 17 at 7:05 p.m.): The Pride have won three Cowles Cups since joining the league in 2005 and have had nine Olympians on its roster, including current ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and Women’s College World Series analyst Jessica Mendoza. The Eagles were established in May of 2017 with a roster made up primarily of players from the Chinese National Team. The Pride will play six times this season on ESPN+ and the Eagles a total of four times.
- Aussie Spirit’s Inaugural Season (June 5 at 8:05 p.m., June 10 doubleheader at 5 p.m. and June 26 at 8 p.m.): The NPF announced an expansion in December of 2017 with the addition of the Spirit, the team is operated by Softball Australia. The NPF’s newest team will be featured in four games on ESPN+
Read the full release here.
ESPN’s Continued Commitment to Sport of Softball
ESPN has long been a supporter of the sport of softball, with complete coverage of the NCAA Division I Super Regionals and Women’s College World Series (WCWS) for the 12 and 18 consecutive seasons, respectively. In 2017, the network expanded its coverage to include every game of the postseason. This season alone, ESPN led the industry with a schedule of more than 650 NCAA Division I games available across its family of networks and ESPN+. Supporting the sport at multiple levels, ESPN signed a multi-year deal with USA Softball in 2017 to televise games from the World Cup of Softball and added every game of the Little League Softball World Series and all of its U.S. regional tournaments to ESPN+ in 2018.
About the Cleveland Comets
The Cleveland Comets, headquartered in Cleveland, OH, became a new franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) League in 2018. The team became the most recent addition to the NPF and is owned by the former owner of the Akron Racers, a team that existed since the NPF began in 2004. The Cleveland Comets will embrace the Racers’ fan base, while also introducing the attractive and popular product of fastpitch softball to the Greater Cleveland area. For more information on the Cleveland Comets, contact General Manager Stephen Dunn.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Aussie Spirit, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2018 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada, and China, among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.