Lisle, Ill.-- With the hoopla of Opening Night behind them, the Chicago Bandits took to the field against the Australian National team on Friday night, but it was the Aussies that stole the show in Game Two, capitalizing on three solo home runs to defeat Chicago, 3-2.
A night after Thursdays starter Jennie Finch struck out 12 batters, Lauren Bay looked to be continuing the trend by retiring the first three Australians via the K.
While the fanfare surrounding the Bandits Opening Day had subsided 24 hours before,
one fact remained constant on the second night of the teams season; Jennie Finch is going to create excitement in Chicago. Despite not being in the circle on Friday night, Finch was the star for the club nonetheless. Leading off the second inning, Finch ripped a laser down the left field line, and after rounding first, the umpires conferred and ruled the ball foul. Undeterred, Finch retrieved her bat and made pitcher Justine Smethurst wish the umpires had left Finch on first. After working the count full, Finch swung on an inside fastball and deposited the Bandits first home run into the standing room only section beyond the left field wall.
In the top of the third, Bay continued her early dominance, striking out two to move her three-inning total to six. In the home-half of the third, Megan Ciolli and Anne Steffan both reached base, but were stranded at first and second.
The Australian team tied the score in the top of the fourth inning after a home run off the bat of first baseman Stacey Porter. The low-line drive never got more than 15 feet off the ground, but cleared the right-center field fence to tie the game at a run apiece.
Natalie Titcume followed the Porter home run with a sinking liner that bounced off the glove of a sliding Venus Taylor in right. After allowing consecutive batters to reach base, Bay regrouped and struck out the final two hitters of the inning.
After the Bandits were retired in order in the fourth, Bay was replaced in the circle by the NPFs No. 1 overall draft pick Amy Harre. Bay had been battling illness over the past week, but finished her 4.1 innings of work with eight strikeouts.
The fireballer from Southern Illinois entered the game with one down and one on. The first batter Harre faced, second baseman Leah Quakenbush, grounded up the middle, but the pitcher could not handle the hard chopper and allowed the innings second base runner.
With two on and only one down, Harre had to quickly shake off the nerves associated with her first professional appearance, with the top of the Australian lineup stepping into the box. Harre buckled down and struck out lead off batter Kerry Wyborn and right fielder Belinda Wright followed by popping up a bunt to the pitcher to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bandits catcher Selena Collins ripped a line drive off the leg of Aussie pitcher Catherine Bishop. Kate Varde entered the game to pinch run for Collins, and stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, but the Bandits batters were unable to turn Varde into the go-ahead run.
Porter strode to the plate in the top of the sixth representing Australias only run on the night, and left the box accounting for Australias only two runs of the evening. Porter hit a towering shot to right-center to compliment her frozen-rope from the fourth.
Not to be outdone, the next batter, third baseman Natalie Titcume, launched a solo shot of her own to left to give the Aussies a 3-1 lead.
After Gina Oaks moved from the hot-corner into the circle and ended the inning, Steffan recorded her second hit of the night in the bottom of the frame. After being moved to second on a fielders choice by Jaime Clark, and to third on a passed ball, Finch earned her second RBI of the contest with a sharply hit ball up the middle, plating Steffan, to pull the home team within a run.
Gina Oaks retired the side in the top of the seventh, to take a 3-2 deficit into the bottom of the final frame for the Bandits, but the home team went down in order.
Finch and Steffan combined for four of the Bandits six hits on the night and three Australian pitchers struck out seven, and allowed only two earned runs.
Porter has been the star of the first two games for Australia, going three for five with three runs scored and a pair of runs driven in.
The Chicago Bandits and the Australian National Team will continue their four-game series on Saturday at the Benedictine University Sports Complex at 7:00 PM. Call 1-877-7BANDITS or Ticketmaster for all Chicago Bandits ticket needs.
For the most up-to-date information on the Chicago Bandits, live stats, and internet radio broadcasts during all home games, visit the Official Website of the Chicago Bandits, ChicagoBandits.com