(Courtesy of Jason Lowenthal, Chicago Bandits)
ROSEMONT, Ill – Looking for their first win of the season, the Akron Racers found an outpouring of offense to defeat the Chicago Bandits 7-5 in Saturday’s finale of the opening series of the 2017 NPF season.
“We were just in our own heads and we let us beat ourselves more than they beat us,” Fuller said. “In that last inning, just trying to do way too much instead of just putting the ball in play.”
Ellen Sara Roberts earned her first professional start in the U.S. after beginning her career in Australia with a stint in Italy mixed into her professional experience. After allowing just two hits through 2.2 innings and striking out three batters, Roberts surrendered a two-run homer to Akron’s Ashley Thomas, a towering shot that landed beyond the bleachers.
However, the Bandits fought back with a key third inning rally.
With Emily Crane on base with a single, Brenna Moss sliced a triple to the left-center field gap to cut the deficit in half. Moss scored after Emily Carosone put the ball in play and the Bandits took the lead later in the inning on an RBI single from Fuller on a 3-2 count, her first RBI as a member of the team.
“They were throwing me off-speed this whole series,” Fuller said.” I had to do something and I was just looking to make contact.”
A brief rain delay seemed to do the Racers well, as Akron responded with four runs of their own in the top of the fifth inning. Taylor Schlopy evened up the score with an RBI-single, ending Roberts’ night at 4.1 innings with three earned runs and six hits. Shelby Turnier, pitching for the third time in as many days, entered the circle.
“I thought Ellen (Roberts) did a really good job,” Holas said. “I was really pleased with her speed and it was up for her and I thought that was something we were looking for. She has been working really hard on her pitch combination. She’ll do some really good things.”
Turnier couldn’t find the zone to start her outing. On her first pitch of the game, she hit Akron’s Ashley Thomas and the Racers’ shortstop had to be taken out of the game. She then loaded the bases after a single from Griffin Joiner, which opened the door for Taylor Schlopy to score the go ahead run after a wild pitch. A double from Nicole Schroeder sent two more runs home, which extended the Racers’ lead to 6-3.
Turnier had just come off two straight appearances, throwing a combined 110 pitches between her six innings in the circle.
“I think all three of them, [Wagner, Roberts, and Turnier,] anytime we are going from where we’ve been throwing this many pitchers in this many days, they are going to feel it whether they do or they think they are or not,” Holas said.
Holas added that the Bandits’ pitching staff is short a few arms in the early going of the 2017 season.
“We are short staffed right now [on pitching],” Holas said. “We have three of our pitchers in and a couple of them are still playing in the series and stuff so we are trying to be really strategic. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re not.”
Third-year pitcher Lacey Waldrop is currently coaching at the University of Oklahoma as the Sooners play in the Women’s College World Series and draftee Sierra Hyland is set to arrive in Chicago for the Bandits’ next series against the Beijing Shougang Eagles.
“I do think that [pitching] is the key to the league right now and keeping things in and just having a fresh niche to anytime you want and being eager,” Holas said.
The Racers added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning when Alex Hugo blasted a home run to left field to extend the lead to 7-5 for Akron.
The Bandits now fall to 2-1, still taking the victory in the series with wins on Thursday and Friday. The upcoming series against Beijing Shougang, its first as the NPF’s newest member, is set for an 11:05 a.m. CST first pitch on Tuesday morning. The game will be broadcast on NPF TV. The Racers move to 1-2 on the season and will begin a three-game series with the USSSA Pride beginning Thursday, June 8 in Viera, Florida. The first game of the series is set for 7:05 p.m. ET and can be seen on NPF TV.
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 Chicago Bandits
Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch league. Entering their 13th season as a franchise, the Bandits have provided the Chicago area with high-level softball talent and entertainment en route to capturing six regular season titles and four Cowles Cup championships, the most recent coming during the 2016 campaign. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, one of the premier softball facilities in the nation. The Ballpark at Rosemont is the only stadium in the country built exclusively for a women’s professional softball team. The Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch softball players to further their careers at the professional level and has included legendary figures such as Jennie Finch, Monica Abbott and Tammy Williams.
About National Pro Fastpitch
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, 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, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.