Lisle, Ill.-- The 2005 National Pro Fastpitch playoffs started out with an intense game that ended with a dramatic over-the-fence homerun from Jennie Finch to win the game for the Chicago Bandits, knocking out the New York Juggernaut, 6-3.
Finch not only dominated at the plate, she also was on top of her game in the circle. Pitching, Finch struck out five without any walks and only gave up three hits.
Chicagos Vicky Galindo was the first player on base in the top of the first off New York pitcher Peaches James. A beautiful sacrifice bunt from Gina Oaks advanced Galindo to second. After working the pitcher with nine pitches, Jaime Clark sent a ground ball to second baseman Carri Leto who made the out at first. With Galindo all the way at third, Olympic Gold Medalist Jennie Finch grounded out to fellow Team USA teammate Natasha Watley at shortstop.
To start of the second inning, Bandits catcher Selena Collins drove the ball down the left foul line for a standup double. Kate Varde came in to pinch run and moved to third base on Christina Eneas sacrifice bunt. Mackenzie Vandergeest drove in Varde for the first run of the game, but was out at first.
Chelsea Spencer was the first Juggernaut to make it on base with a hit up the middle. When pitcher Jennie Finch fielded Kim Ogees bunt, Finch went for the lead runner at second, but Ogee was safe. Carri Leto came to the plate with two runners on and hit a triple to bring New York ahead. Peaches James flew out to left field, but Leto tagged up and went home for a score to 3-1.
Bandits rightfielder Liz Bouck reached first on an error and Galindo was walked. Second baseman Carri Leto made a great double play by catching a line drive and tossing it to second base to catch Bouck off the base. James walked Gold Medalists Clark and Finch to load the bases. Collins sent the ball straight up that New York catcher Ryan Realmuto caught in front of the plate.
Bandits Oaks barely moved to catch Ogees line drive. Leto earned her second hit of the game with a single up the middle. During the next at bat Leto tried to steal second, but Collins quickly threw the ball to Clark for the tag.
After Galindo was walked to first, the Bandits began. Oaks earned a base hit to deep second base. Clark, no stranger to clinch situations, shot a triple that drove in two runs to tie up the game. New York's Jodie Cox came in to relieve James in the circle. James struck out three while giving up four hits, and walked four.
In the bottom of the second, Enea drove it to the left side for a single. Lauren Bay came in to pinch run, making it her second time on base all season. Laura Harms was put in to bunt for Vandergeest, but failed to execute. After two strikes, Chicago coaches brought Vandergeest back in to strikeout. James struck the next two batters.
The Juggernaut came up with power hits, but the Bandits defensive topped their performance. To start off the seventh inning, Jodie Cox hit a hard lined drive to the left side and was remarkable caught by Galindo. In left field, Laura Harms raced over towards the fence to make another great catch for the Bandits this inning.
For this special playoff game, the Bandits would do no less than finish with a dramatic ending. At their last opportunity in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bandits scored to win the game. With Galindo being the winning run on second base from a walk, Clark hit a ball to short stop that took a funky bounce to give Clark the hit. To prevent going into extra innings, Finch took it into her own hands and belted out a three run homerun to win the game in a fashionable style.
In the 1.2 innings that Cox pitched, she struck out three and only gave up one hit, which happened to be the winning shot.
Tomorrow the Bandits will play in the Championship Game against the winner of tonights 9 p.m. game. Following the Championship Game will be the homerun derby and the All-Star Game which will both be televised on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. and 6p.m. respectively.