ELGIN, IL - The Chicago Bandits clinched the franchises third playoff berth in four years, but it did not come easy.
In a back and fourth contest, the Bandits (26-16) defeated the New England Riptide 8-7 Saturday night in Game Two of a National Pro Fastpitch series at the Judson Sports Complex.
The Riptide (19-23) took a 7-6 lead in the sixth inning but it did not last long. Samantha Findlay and Laura Harms each hit solo blasts to center field in the sixth inning and the Bandits regained the lead 8-7.
"[The home run] felt really good and I just tried not to smile when I was running the bases," Harms said. "We wanted to put a lot of runs up and keep scoring.
Eileen Canney (11-9) came in to relieve starter Jocelyn Forest, who allowed six hits, two walks and had three strikeouts. Forest allowed seven runs but three were earned.
New England loaded the bases in the sixth inning and Gina Carbonatto singled to score Kelley and Chicago's lead was cut to 6-4. Tracie Adix came in to relieve starter Jessica Sallinger after 5.1 innings. Sallinger left with six walks, five strike outs and was still on the hook and allowed seven runs. Lyndsey Angus hit a three RBI single on Adix and the Riptide recaptured the lead 7-6.
Adix (3-3) got the win in 1.2 innings with three strikeouts.
Trailing 3-0 with Aileen Morales batting, the Bandits took the lead on one of the zaniest series of events ever in a NPF game. After Trimboli, Samantha Findlay singled up the middle and Emily Nichols drew a nine-pitch walk. Morales hit a hard grounder past the shortstop and Findlay raced home to beat the throw. The Riptide's catcher-KJ Kelley wasn't in time to get Findlay out and threw to third base trying to tag out Nichols, but the throw was wide and sailed into the outfield. Nichols scored and New England's shortstop committed the second error of the play that allowed Morales to score on what otherwise would have been a routine single. Chicago grabbed its first lead 4-3.
"We want to score runs every inning." Findlay said. "Today we kept scoring that is what kept us in the game."
With two outs and Ashley Carlson on base, Stacy May crushed a moon shot over the left field scoreboard, upping the Bandits lead to 6-3 in the fourth inning. May casually dropped her bat looked up and knew it was gone. It was her 11 home run of the season, ranking third in the NPF.
Lisa Modglin drew first blood in a hurry with a two run home run in the first inning just over the outstretched arm of Amanda Freed. Lisa Pasquerella led off the game with a single and scored on the home run. New England added another run one inning later when Carmen Paez walked and scored on an error.
Nicole Trimboli-who scored both of Chicago's runs on Friday-hit a solo home run inton shallow right field in the second inning-the Bandits first hit-to close New England's lead to 3-1.
"I know that we are playing our best now and we want to keep it going into the playoffs," Harms said. "Going to the playoffs is a good feeling, but we want to keep winning every game until and through the playoffs."
"One our goals this year was to make the playoffs and forget about last season," Findlay said. "All of our team cares about each other and it is a special group."