(Courtesy of Chicago Bandits)
ROSEMONT, Ill. – Despite tying the game in the top of the sixth inning, the Akron Racers were edged by the Chicago Bandits, 3-2 in Thursday night’s NPF Season Opening Night. Emily Carosone delivered the walk-off base hit in the bottom of the seventh and Bandits pitching was sharp in the victory.
Both starting pitchers, the Bandits’ Shelby Turnier and the Racers Emily Weiman, had it going early, with each putting up zeroes through the first two frames.
The Bandits opened the scoring in the bottom of the third with a towering Kristen Brown solo home run to left, marking the first run of the 2017 NPF season.
“I was super excited about (the home run),” Brown said. “Being able to get the opportunity, have an at-bat, and put some runs on the board for the team, that was awesome.”
Brown hit the homer on a 2-1 count, her favorite count as a hitter.
“My approach at the plate is just to stay calm, stay confident, see a good one and drive,” Brown said. “I don’t go for home runs – they just go out. As long as I’m putting runs on the board, I’m doing the job for the team and that’s all I can ask for.”
Taylah Tsitsikronis followed Brown’s home run with a bloop double into left and eventually came around to score the Bandits’ second run of the game on an infield single off the bat of Brenna Moss.
Turnier, a second-year right-hander from Central Florida, was dealing through the first four innings. She allowed no runs on just three hits while striking out six batters and departed with a 2-0 lead. Turnier said it gave her a boost of confidence getting the nod in the season opener.
“It feels really good,” Turnier said. “I like to be the person who gets the opportunity to set the tone.”
Turnier fell behind in the count against multiple Racers batters during her outing, but was able to attack the zone late in the at-bats to get key strikeouts.
“I used a lot of off-speed pitches to get those strikeouts or to set other pitches up so I think that’s what was helpful,” Turnier said.
Ellen Roberts then entered the game in relief and tossed a clean fifth inning. She ran into trouble in the sixth, however, as three hits in the frame allowed the Racers to score a pair of runs and even the score. Akron first baseman Sam Fischer kicked off the inning with a one-out triple to left field. Rookie Nicole Schroeder, from Arkansas, made a pinch-hit appearance and drove Fischer home with a base hit down the left field line to begin her career. Racer designated player Jennifer Gilbert plated pinch runner Shellie Robinson with a double to left field to tie the game 2-2.
Bandits’ southpaw Haylie Wagner entered the game with one out in the top of the seventh. She induced a fly out to center for the second out of the inning, then walked former Bandits player A.J. Andrews, but was able to strand her with a timely strikeout to get out of the inning.
With the game tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Bandits quickly loaded the bases with no outs. Emily Crane and Emily Allard both singled to open the inning, followed by a Brenna Moss bunt for a base hit. With the bags packed with Bandits, Carosone stepped in and worked a long at-bat, fouling off multiple pitches down the left field line. On a 2-2 count, she delivered the walk-off hit back up the middle, scoring Crane and giving the Bandits their first victory of the regular season.
The next game is Friday, June 2 at The Ballpark at Rosemont, the second of a three-game series against Akron. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. CT, 8:35 p.m. ET.
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers will celebrate their 16th season of play in 2017. The Racers competed in the Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL) for two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and in the NPF since 2004. Historic Firestone Stadium is home to the Racers and numerous amateur events at all levels of play.
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 NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Texas Charge and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2017 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, and Canada, among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.