Megan Blank Photo by Dina Kwit Courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch
ROSEMONT, IL (August 5, 2016) – Friday night’s home finale ended with a classic rubber match between the Bandits and longtime rival USSSA Pride. In front of a sold out, season-high crowd of 1,929 at The Ballpark at Rosemont, fans were treated to a 12-inning thriller, capped off by a walk-off two-run homer from Megan Blank.
“I have no words,” Blank said. “It’s an incredible feeling.”
Blank, who was batting .031 back on June 22, delivered her biggest hit of the season following eight consecutive scoreless frames. USSSA (33-13) had just taken the lead in the top half of the inning and former Pride member Amanda Kamekona was standing on second with the international tiebreaker in play. Both teams had numerous chances in extras, but Blank turned on the first pitch she saw and smacked it past the scoreboard in right center field.
Winning pitcher Michelle Gascoigne (W, 5-4), who entered with two outs in the eighth inning, said it was only a matter of time before someone came through.
“I knew that we were seeing the ball well,” Gascoigne said of the offense, which scattered eight hits in the game. “All we had to score was one and the fact that we got two in that pressured situation is awesome.”
It was Blank’s third home run of the season, all three coming within the past seven contests, which have propelled the Bandits (22-23) to the third seed in the NPF Championship Series, set to begin August 19 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“It was a no-doubter, so that’s what was most fun about it,” Gascoigne said. “We all just saw it go up and knew that it was gone instantly.”
Although Blank was the ultimate hero, the Bandits needed stellar work from Gascoigne out of the bullpen in tight situations. The veteran southpaw tossed 4.1 innings in relief, allowing just one unearned run and one hit with four strikeouts.
The Pride threatened numerous times, but could not scrape a run across until the 12th frame, the longest game of the 2016 season for the Bandits.
“I feel the pressure, but I like it,” Gascoigne said. “When you’re in a situation like that and you’re at home, I think the pressure is on them because they have to be perfect in the bottom of the inning whereas in the top half, I could have a little wiggle room.”
Gascoigne also credited Bandits’ starting pitcher Angel Bunner, who worked into the eighth inning, surrendered just two runs on six hits with two strikeouts. She was forced to settle for a no-decision, despite the dominant outing.
“I was happy to come in and help (Angel) out,” Gascoigne said. “I’m glad that I was fresh and she got all the way through seven so I could keep going for her.”
During one stretch, Bunner retired 15 consecutive batters, before a one-out single from Shelby Pendley in the eighth.
Bunner, who signed with the Bandits mid-season, was dueling with the duo of Keilani Ricketts (ND, 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 K) and Hannah Rogers, who ultimately suffered the loss. Rogers entered in relief and tossed seven innings, but was done in by Blank’s 12th inning home run.
The Bandits had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame, courtesy of an RBI-single by Natalie Hernandez (1-for-4, RBI) and an errant throw. USSSA evened the count in the third on a two-run homer by Shelby Pendley (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI), but the score remained that way until the twelfth.
With a capacity crowd in attendance, Gascoigne said the fans deserved a win in the home regular season finale.
“(The fans) didn’t want the home season to end and neither did we,” Gascoigne said. “They’re awesome and we love them.”
The Bandits will hit the road for the final five games of the regular season, beginning with a three-game stretch against the Dallas Charge on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. CST.
“Coach Stu always says that we’re 0-0 in the season right now and we’re 0-0 every day when we’re out here,” Gascoigne said. “We’re trying to take care of business one game at a time knowing what’s right in front of us.”
Gosling's Rum Recap Notes:
• After dropping the first five games of the season series, the Bandits won four of the final five against the Pride.
• The all-time series between the Bandits now sits at 56-55 in favor of the Pride.
• The Bandits have never finished below the .500 mark at The Ballpark at Rosemont. They compiled a 13-12 mark at home this season.
• The Bandits are now 2-1 in extra innings in 2016.
• The Bandits are now 15-4 when scoring first this season.
About USSSA Florida Pride:
The USSSA Florida Pride is a professional franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League that is owned and operated by USSSA. The amateur organization of USSSA has multi-sport coverage and encompasses teams and players from the United States and abroad.
About the Chicago Bandits:
Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch players to further their careers at a professional level, and the roster has included such names as Jennie Finch, Stacy May-Johnson, Emily Allard and Tammy Williams. The three-time NPF Champions, who are owned by Bill Sokolis, play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the country built for a women’s professional team. The 2016 season will be the Bandits 12th season in the NPF.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF):
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2002, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in diamond sports beyond their collegiate success. The 2016 NPF season will be televised on CBS Sports Network. Coverage includes the NPF College Draft presented by Bownet on Thur., April 14, followed by 23 regular-season games, a Championship Series Preview Special and the 2016 NPF Championship Series. The NPF recently announced that the Scrap Yard Dawgs, located in The Woodlands, Texas, will join the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Dallas Charge, Pennsylvania Rebellion and USSSA Pride for the 2016 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand, representing the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.
Note to Media
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