The Chicago Bandits claimed first place in the National Pro Fastpitch league all for themselves with a 10-0 drubbing of the Akron Racers Friday night at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
Rachel Folden and Monica Abbott shared star billing for the Bandits as Folden hit two home runs and Abbott struck out 18 batters en route to the victory.
Chicago struck early and often off starting pitcher Lisa Norris. Folden’s homer in the top of the first – her second of the year – went over the fence in right center field and brought Amber Patton home for a 2-0 lead.
The Bandits sent nine batters to the plate an inning later. A two-out Megan Wiggins single that Akron left fielder Taylor Schlopy misplayed allowed Jamee Juarez and Caitlin Lever to score and gave the Bandits a 4-0 lead. Norris then gave up a single to Patton that brought Wiggins home and followed that with a walk to Folden.
Patton and Folden both scored when clean-up hitter Alisa Goler sent the ball out of the park just inside the right field foul pole. Goler’s home run gave the Bandits an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the second inning.
Two more solo round-trippers off reliever Carla Brookbank-Schaal – one by Lever in the third inning and another by Folden in the fourth – concluded the Bandits’ scoring for the night.
In the meantime, Abbott was at her overpowering best on the mound. The left-hander gave up just one hit and walked no one out of the 23 batters she faced.
The one sour note came when she hit the Racers’ Hoku Nohara on her first pitch to Nohara in the fifth inning. The HP turned out to be harmless, as pinch hitter Roya St. Clair ended the inning with a called third strike.
Of Abbott’s 18 strikeouts, six of them came on called third strikes, including the final three outs of the game.
The one-hit victory boosted Abbott’s season record to 4-1 and the Bandits’ to 6-3.
Norris, who lasted only two innings, suffered her second loss in five games. The Racers, who entered the game tied with Chicago for first place, dropped into second with a 5-4 mark.
Brookbank-Schaal pitched four innings in relief of Norris and gave up two runs. Sharon Palma kept the Bandits scoreless in the final inning of the game.
The Bandits and Racers square off again Saturday night at Firestone Stadium in a single contest that begins at 7:35 p.m. ET. Their four-game series concludes Sunday with a doubleheader that includes the make-up game for Thursday’s rain-out.