ROSEMONT, Ill. – The No. 2 seed Chicago Bandits took advantage of five errors from the third-seeded Carolina Diamonds Thursday night in the opening game of the 2012 NPF Championship Series, taking the first game of the best two-of-three opening round, 11-1.
The Bandits scored in each inning from the second through the fifth, collecting 10 hits as a team. Alisa Goler led the way with a two hit night, driving in five runs. Amber Patton and Tammy Williams each had a pair of hits while Patton and Megan Wiggins each scored twice.
Both teams’ leadoff batters led off their respective first inning with walks, but the scoring began with Carolina in the top of the second. All-NPF selection Bianca Mejia drove a one-out offering from Bandits’ starter and NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott deep over the centerfield fence for a solo home run and an early 1-0 Diamonds’ edge.
After the run, Chicago’s pitching staff shut down Carolina’s offense the rest of the way. Abbott earned the win with five innings of work, allowing just the one run on two hits with nine strikeouts. Nikki Nemitz pitched a scoreless sixth and Chanda Bell worked the seventh.
The Bandits evened the score immediately in the bottom half of the inning. Patton led off the frame before the NPF’s Co-Spikes Stolen Bases Award winner swiped second with one down. Later in the frame, Whitney Larsen tapped a slow roller off the end of her bat that died in front of the plate. Diamonds’ catcher Rachel Folden pounced on the ball, but her throw to first was wide, allowing Patton to scamper around and cross the plate to knot the game, 1-1.
After Abbott cruised through the top of the third with her fourth and fifth strikeouts of the contest, Chicago roared into the lead against All-NPF hurler Katie Burkhart. All-NPF choice Wiggins led off the inning with a double down the right-field line before trotting home when slugger Goler doubled herself into the left-field gap. Kristen Butler, who had seven home runs in the regular season, followed by sending a moonshot into the MB Financial Party Deck beyond left field to make it a 4-1 game.
Carolina’s Amanda Kamekona clubbed a two-out triple just beyond the reach of a diving Amanda Williams in the top of the fourth, but Abbott coaxed a routine grounder to third strand the UCLA product at third.
The Bandits continued to apply pressure in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of a trio of Diamonds’ errors in the frame to send two more across the plate for a 6-1 advantage.
Morgan Melloh took the circle for Carolina in the bottom of the fifth, and the Bandits immediately greeted her with five more runs to extend their cushion to 11-1. Amanda Williams and Goler each delivered two-run hits in the inning for Chicago to conclude the scoring.
Burkhart took the loss in the game, allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits with four strikeouts in 4.0 innings of work. Melloh surrendered five runs (two earned) on five hits in 2.0 innings of work.
The two teams will play the second game of their best two-of-three series at 8:30 p.m. CT tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 24, at the Ballpark at Rosemont.