ROSEMONT, Ill. – The second-seeded Chicago Bandits plated four runs in the first inning Friday in the second game of a best two-out-of-three NPF Championship Series semifinal against the third-seeded Carolina Diamonds, riding that advantage to a 5-1 win and a berth in the NPF title round beginning Saturday night.
The Bandits swept the Diamonds on the strength of Friday’s victory and an 11-1 win in the first game Thursday at the Ballpark at Rosemont. They will await the winner of a rubber match between the No. 1 seed USSSA Pride and No. 4 seed Akron Racers to be played at 11 a.m. CT Saturday. The first game of the final best-of-three series is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT Saturday evening.
Carolina put runners at first and third in the top of the first inning against Chicago starter Nikki Nemitz, getting a leadoff double off the very top of the centerfield fence from Natalie Villareal before a Tammy Williams error at short allowed Amanda Kamekona to reach. With two outs in the inning and runners at the corners, Nemitz got All-NPF selection Bianca Mejia to strike out swinging to end the threat.
Chicago seized on the defensive momentum to stake itself to an early lead in the bottom of the first. With runners at first and second and one out, cleanup batter Kristen Butler drove an Angel Bunner offering into the MB Financial Party Deck for her second home run of the 2012 NPF Championship Series. The inning continued with a two-out double from Tammy Williams, who came around to score from there when a slow Amanda Williams chopper was mishandled for an error to put the Bandits on top 4-0 heading to the second frame.
NPF home run champion Megan Wiggins, who clubbed 12 during the regular season, tacked on her first of the NPF Championship Series with a two-out solo shot in the bottom of the second.
Butler finished the game with three RBIs to lead Chicago while Tammy Williams had two hits and Wiggins scored a pair of runs.
Carolina fought back in the top of the fourth inning with a leadoff Rachel Folden double to right center followed by a Mejia single and a one-out Amy Hooks walk to load the bases. Pinch hitter Jami Lobpries then shot a grounder to Tammy Williams, who tried to start a 6-4-3 double play. Lobpries beat out the relay to first, allowing Folden to score and make it a 5-1 game.
The Diamonds put Katie Burkhart in the circle to begin the bottom of the fourth. Vicky Galindo slapped a single against the All-NPF selection but Carolina got out of the inning when Wiggins lined into a double play started by Kelsie Weseman at third.
Carolina chased Nemitz from the circle with a two-out Gionna DiSalvatore single in the fifth. Game one winner and NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott entered the game in relief, getting Folden to ground out softly to first to end the inning. From there, both teams’ pitching staffs cruised into the finish.
Nemitz picked up the win with 4.2 innings of work, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. Abbott closed the door on the Diamonds with 2.1 perfect innings, fanning four.
Bunner took the loss for Carolina, giving up five runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 3.0 innings. Burkhart went 1.2 innings, allowing one hit with one strikeout, and Danielle Spaulding threw the final 1.1 innings.