When Chicago Bandits catcher Gwen Svekis launched a deep fly to center field in the top of the seventh inning in last night’s game two of the National ProFastpitch Championship, it had the looks of a second come-from-behind inning for the hosts. But as the ball dropped into USSSA Pride center fielder Allexis Bennett’s glove, the hopes of pulling even in the best-of-five series ended in a 5-4 victory for the Pride.
The Pride jumped ahead early when Brittany Cervantes homered to center field in the bottom of the first to score Shelby Pendley, who singled to left with two outs in the previous at-bat off Bandits starter Aleshia Ocasio.
It wasn’t until the top of the third inning that the Bandits bats finally came to life. Pride starter Keilani Ricketts allowed just a single and a walk in the first two frames, but a second time through the Bandits order proved more of a challenge.
With one out in the third, 2019 NPF Player of the Year Amanda Chidester launched a bomb over the center-field fence halfway to the I-294 exit ramp to post the first run of the series for the Bandits.
We stayed up way too late watching this on repeat.— FloSoftball (@FloSoftball) August 17, 2019
An absolute bomb by Chiddy😳pic.twitter.com/6EKIJmjZAN
Brenna Moss followed with an infield single, beating the throw from Pride shortstop Sydney Romero. Moss would score on a home run from Abbey Cheek that cleared the right-field fence giving the Bandits their first lead of the series.
The @Chicago_Bandits made a comeback!!! After a solo HR from Amanda Chidester, Abbey Cheek rocks a 2 run HR to give the Bandits a 3-2 lead over the @USSSAPride !!!!! #WomenWorthWatching #SERIES19 #NPF2019 @AbbeyCheek @chiddy3 Catch all the action on @FloSoftball !!! pic.twitter.com/mowhLnslCM— NationalProFastpitch (@profastpitch) August 17, 2019
But the Pride bats didn’t waste any time getting back on top, plating a pair of runs in the bottom half of the third.
After Romero led off with a single, Megan Wiggins blasted a double just beyond the reach of Bandits right fielder Emily Crane. Romero, only able to advance to third after having to hold in case of a catch by Crane, caught the Bandits offense off guard, swiping home while Svekis approached the circle without calling a timeout.
Bandits coach Lauren Lappin then made the move to her bullpen, with Haylie Wagner taking the circle over from Ocasio.
Cervantes followed with a single to right field, with Wiggins advancing to third and holding on a strong throw to the plate from Crane. Wiggins would score on a wild pitch during Kelly Kretschman’s at-bat, who hit a high chopping single gloved by second baseman Abby Ramirez up the middle to set up a first and third, with just one out.
Shay Knighten entered to pinch-hit for Ricketts, and the rally was snuffed when she drilled a line drive to shortstop that Hannah Flippen snagged and doubled Wiggins off third to end the inning.
The Pride would add an insurance run in the fourth when a flare from the bat of Romero managed to sneak past a charging Jessica Scroggins to score Merritt, who reached on a lead-off infield single moving the score to 5-3.
The score would hold until the Bandits half of the seventh when Scroggins led off the frame reaching on an error by Pride first baseman Alex Powers. Pride head coach Gerry Glasco went to his bullpen for the first time in the game, bringing in game one hero Jailyn Ford to face Katie Reed, who pinch-hit for Abby Ramirez.
Ford struck out Reed and followed with an intentional walk to Chidester. DJ Sanders entered to run for Chidester as Moss came to the plate with one out.
Moss flew out to left for the second out, bringing Cheek to the plate. After a gutsy double-steal by Sanders and Scroggins, Cheek reached on an infield single to score Scroggins and close the gap to one run, setting the stage for Svekis’ near miss to end the game.
Ricketts earned the win from the circle, logging six innings, giving up five hits, four runs, striking out three and walking just one. Ocasio was tagged with the loss after two innings of work, allowing four runs on five hits.
Tonight’s game three will be do-or-die for the Bandits, while the Pride will be looking to sweep the championship series for the second straight year. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Illinois.