Kannapolis, NC - June 16, 2012 – A late rally by the Carolina Diamonds was stopped by ace pitcher Monica Abbott, who came off the bench to get the save and give the Chicago Bandits an 8-3 victory at CMC-NorthEast Stadium in Kannapolis.
The Diamonds were down 2-0 early in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league game until second baseman Natalie Villarreal hit a shot over the fence in the fourth inning, marking her first homer of the season and also boosting her confidence.
While it was not Villarreal’s first hit of the season it was the first time she feels she really connected with the ball.
“It feels good. It gives me a little more confidence,” Villarreal said. “I am not trying to hit home runs, I am trying to get on base for my team. I just try to put the ball in play.”
After Villarreal’s home run first baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore then reached first and was then driven in by a Bianca Mejia double to tie the game 2-2.
Katie Burkhart got the start for the Diamonds, going four innings and giving up four hits and two runs while walking four and striking out five. Sharon Palma relieved Burkhart in the fifth and then former University of North Carolina pitcher Danielle Spaulding came in to close out the final two innings.
Spaulding would strike out four while giving up four hits and two runs.
“It was great. I have really been trying to work hard and really trying to find just everything. And I feel that everything, just little by little, is coming together. It’s really nice when you have a defense behind you that you can trust and that they will always have your back,” Spaulding said. “That’s always nice when you are out there on the mound.”
The Diamonds nearly got a late rally going when they were down 6-2 in the sixth inning, but once Mejia drove in DiSalvatore to make it 6-3 against starting pitcher Nikki Nemitz, the Bandits brought in Abbott after the pitcher started and won Friday’s match-up.
Unfortunately, any late rally hopes for the Diamonds were stopped by Abbott, who's pitch speed was too much for the Diamonds bats as she would strike out five in her two innings of work.
“I think always we were putting up a fight, but I think a few little things we didn’t capitalize on and a few things didn’t go our way,” Spaulding added. “But all in all, we are still fighting, we are still putting runners on base. We have just got to finish it and execute it.”
Diamonds head coach Teresa Wilson was proud of how the team hung in the game until the very end.
“I think we were in it. I think you have got to finish plays when you get opportunities. I am proud of the way they came back,” she said. “I was proud of the way Burkhart battled.”
Wilson said the team is very close to seeing better results, results which make the team tough to face.
“We have got to have some more people stepping up. We are close. We are very, very capable. We keep putting it together and getting a little better each week and we will get some finishes on these things,” she said.
The team needs to play “fundamental softball,” Wilson said, then stating that the little things in the sport expose the differences in good and great.
“We still need to improve in areas and when we do they will be very tough,” she added.
Photo credit: Dru Willis/Carolina Diamonds
About National Pro Fastpitch: National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. 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 since 2002.