AKRON, Ohio Jenny Toppings two-run home run and Brandee McArthurs 11-strikeout pitching performance highlighted a 4-1 Akron NPF win in the nightcap, after Chicago had rolled the Racers in the opener, 10-3.
The doubleheader split left Akron and Chicago tied for first place in the National Pro Fastpitch standings, both at 20-3.
In the opener, the Bandits plated six runs in the top of the first and won easily. Center fielder Megan Ciolli cracked a two-run inside-the-park home run to right field to cap the outburst. Chicago started the game with four consecutive singles against Akron starter Amy Kyler. After first baseman Christina Enea doubled with one out, Kyler was replaced by Radara McHugh.
Ciolli greeted McHugh with a long fly off the fence in right field. Racer right fielder Nicole Trimboli ran through the temporary fence and the ball rolled in the opposite direction. Ciolli circled the bases and Chicago led 6-0 before the Racers came up to bat.
Akrons Iyhia McMichael singled and scored on Crystl Bustos double in the bottom half of the inning. But Chicago scored three more times in the third to put it out of reach. Two singles, a walk, an error, and a sacrifice bunt enabled the Bandits to take a commanding 9-1 lead.
Bustos hit a two-run home run down the left field line in the fourth to pull Akron within 9-3, but the Racers wound up leaving the bases loaded in the inning. For Bustos, it was her NPF-leading 10th homer of the season. Akron left two more runners stranded in the fifth.
Pinch hitter Kate Varde walked and scored on Vicky Galindos double in the sixth frame to close out the scoring. Ciolli finished the contest 2-for-3 with three RBI. Enea, Galindo, and Anne Steffan were also two-time hitters for Chicago.
McArthur (7-0) pitched a gem in the second game, fanning 11, with no walks. Chicago scored an unearned run in the seventh on Lindsey Hammas RBI single.
Scoreless through three innings, Racer shortstop Kristin Johnson blooped a double into right field off Chicago starter Amy Harre. Bustos then laid down a perfect bunt, Johnson moving to third. After Johnson scored on a wild pitch, Bustos was thrown out attempting to steal third base. Harre then walked Oli Keohohou and was relieved by Jennie Finch.
The Olympic champion had blanked the Racers 2-0 last night. But facing her former U.S. teammate Jenny Topping, the Racers catcher stroked a two-run blast to left-center field, making the score 3-0. Akron added an insurance run in the fifth when Iyhia McMichael singled and scored on an error.
Harre (0-2) took the loss. Finch had been scheduled to start the second game, but was sore according to Chicago co-head coach Mickey Dean, and elected to come out of the bullpen. Chicagos Galindo is having a monster series at the plate, going 8-for-11, with two doubles and a triple.
More than 1,500 fans turned out for the twin-bill at historic Firestone Stadium. Total attendance for the two days crested at 3,408.
The fourth game of the series is Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Tomorrows game marks the midpoint of the NPF season.