Brittany Cervantes Photo by Bill Diehm Courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch
Written by Tommy Deas
TUSCALOOSA, AL (August 19, 2016) – The Chicago Bandits started the NPF Championship Series with a blast.
Two of them, actually.
Outfielder Brittany Cervantes and second baseman Amanda Kamekona hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to lead the Bandits to an 11-2 victory over Monica Abbott and the Scrap Yard Dawgs in the opening game of the pro softball playoffs. The game was played in front of a rain-soaked crowd of 1,895 at Rhoads Stadium, setting a first-day NPF playoffs attendance record.
The victory gives Chicago a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three semifinal series. The teams will play again at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday, with a third game, if necessary, set for 5 p.m.
Abbott, the NPF Pitcher of the Year and league leader in wins, earned run average and strikeouts, gave up what seemed like a harmless bunt single to Jill Barrett to start the game.
Cervantes came up with one out and blasted a shot over the fence in center field. Kamekona followed with a solo shot to the same place and the Bandits were suddenly up 3-0.
"I think we prepared well," Cervantes said. "I think (Abbott) brought her stuff and we hit it."
First baseman Megan Blank led off the top of the second with a single to right field, moved to second on Kristen Brown's sacrifice bunt and scored on a single by Barrett to push the lead to 4-0.
"I wouldn't say it was my best game this year," Abbott said. "I think it was me trying to do too much."
The Scrap Yard Dawgs answered in the bottom of the second with a solo homer from Jade Rhodes to cut the lead to 4-1. Their other run also came via a solo home run by Madison Shipman in the sixth inning.
"Came out a little flat, they got rolling pretty quickly and we were playing catch-up," said Tripp MacKay, coach of the Scrap Yard Dawgs.
Starting pitcher Angel Bunner (2-3) and reliever Shelby Turnier kept the Scrap Yard Dawgs mostly in check.
Chicago got some insurance in the top of the sixth, with a little help from a major error. Blank hit a leadoff double, advanced on a fly out and scored from third on a scoring error by third baseman Amanda Fama, with speedster Sammy Marshall rounding the bases all the way as the throw past third base bounded into foul territory in right field, making it 6-1.
The Scrap Yard Dawgs answered with Shipman's solo homer and a single from Rhodes and Chicago turned to Turnier. Bunner allowed two runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts for the win, and Turnier pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit.
"We've done that all year," Bandits coach Mike Steuerwald said. "We don't have a lot of complete games. It was time to mix it up a little bit."
Abbott, who pitched Chicago to last year's NPF championship and signed a six-year, $1 million contract with the expansion franchise out of the Houston area as a free agent, gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks to take the loss.
"We've got a long day ahead of us (on Saturday)," Abbott said. "I'll do whatever it takes."
Chicago completely blew the game open in the seventh with former University of Alabama star Jackie Traina pitching in relief, with Brown blasting a three--run home run to key a five-run outburst.
"It's one game," Steuerwald said. "Whether we won 11-2 or 3-2, we have to win another one."
Chicago is the defending NPF champion, winning the title last year behind Abbott, before she signed with the Houston-area expansion franchise as a free agent.
"We want to defend it," Cervantes said, "and we're here to play."
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 the Scrap Yard Dawgs:
The Scrap Yard Dawgs will begin competition in the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2016. The Dawgs will provide elite softball players the opportunity to pursue a professional career and inspire the next generation of professionals. Located in the Houston area, the Dawgs organization and its players are committed to demonstrating leadership in community involvement, entertainment, and professionalism. Follow the Dawgs at www.scrapyarddawgs.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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 Florida 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
Photos and b-roll of players is available. Interviews with the league commissioner are welcomed, and top players from each team are accessible immediately. If you’re interested in pursuing story angles about professional softball for women, please don’t hesitate to contact us.