For the second time in as many seasons, the USSSA Pride have swept the Chicago Bandits in the National ProFastpitch Championship, this time with an 8-2 win in game three at Parkway Bank Sports Complex.
The Pride once again jumped out front early, plating three runs in the top half of the opening frame.
Sydney Romero drove the first pitch of the game into left field for a single and after a fielder's choice off the bat of Megan Wiggins, Shelby Pendley and Brittany Cervantes followed blasting back-to-back home runs off Bandits starter Rachele Fico.
Pendley goes YARD down the RF line to put the @USSSAPride ahead 2-0 in the top of the 1 INN against the @Chicago_Bandits. Great start for the lefty @PendleyShelby💪— NationalProFastpitch (@profastpitch) August 18, 2019
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Bandits head coach Lauren Lappin made an early move pulling Fico, who had only allowed one home run during the regular season, after just 17 pitches. Ally Carda would enter the circle and retire the next two Pride hitters, but not before the Bandits found themselves in a 3-0 hole.
The Bandits would respond in the bottom of the frame, as Abbey Cheek continued to flex, blasting her second home run of the series with a two-out blast to left-center.
Home Run Derby or Championship Series? Cheek hits a BOMB and puts the @Chicago_Bandits on the board against the @USSSAPride👏 This is why @AbbeyCheek is the Rookie of the Year!— NationalProFastpitch (@profastpitch) August 18, 2019
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A missed opportunity in the bottom half of the second inning would prove to be a turning point in the game. Brenna Moss, Alyssa Dicarlo, and Courtney Gano opened the inning with three consecutive singles to pull the Bandits to within a run, 3-2.
Pride head coach Gerry Glasco would go to the bullpen, lifting starter Taran Alvelo for Jessica Burroughs, who would get the next two outs before a four-pitch walk to Hannah Flippen loaded the bases.
Glasco once again made a move, this time re-entering Alvelo to pitch to 2019 NFP Player of the Year Amanda Chidester.
Alvelo fanned Chidester on three straight pitches to end the Bandits threat.
Feeding off their success on defense, the Pride bats jumped further ahead in the top of the third once again scored three runs in a frame.
Romero and Wiggins opened the inning with a pair of singles. After notching a pair of strikeouts getting the next two outs, Carda gave up a single to Kelly Kretschman that scored Romero, and a double to the gap from Shay Knighten that scored Wiggins and Raegan Rogers, who entered to run for Kretschman.
Danielle O’Toole entered the circle, and Kirsti Merritt flew out to center to end the inning.
The fifth inning proved to be a pivotal point in the game.
After the Pride added another run in the top half on a Knighten single up the middle to score Pendley, who led the inning off with a walk, the bottom half appeared to be an opportunity for the Bandits to get back in the game.
Cheek, Gwen Svekis and Moss loaded the bases on three consecutive singles with no outs, but a lights-out defensive play from Pendley at third base on Moss’ single, a pair of strikeouts from Jailyn Ford and a flyout to center to end the innings left the Bandits coming up empty.
The Pride would add an insurance run in the sixth inning on a single from Kretschman that scored Wiggins, who had doubled earlier in the inning.
Jolene Henderson earned the win, after entering the game in the top of the third and holding the Bandits offense at bay until Ford entered in the fifth.
Ford was named the Championship MVP, having pitched in all three games, earning a win, striking out 15 and earning two saves.
Knighten earned Player of the Game honors, with a 2-for-3 showing at the plate, including a double and three RBIs.
Cheek and Moss both had three hits for the Bandits offense.
The win is the eighth-straight postseason win for the Pride over their rivals, and would also mark the final appearance for a pair of seasoned NPF veterans.
Bandits pitcher Rachele Fico re-entered the game in the top of the seventh and got Merritt to ground out to first to mark her last NPF appearance. Fico was the first pick by the Bandits in the 2013 draft.
🧡💙🖤 Thank you Bandit Nation for welcoming me with open arms! Y’all have given me 2 of the best years of my life! This team, these fans, & this organization are the best in the business and I couldn’t be more proud to be a Bandit! #OnceABandit #AlwaysABandit @Chicago_Bandits https://t.co/K3WxnIcTOP— Rachele Fico (@supafic) August 18, 2019
2019 NPF Legacy Award winner and 14-year NPF Veteran Kelly Kretschman suited up for the final time and went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs.
The Cowles Cup win for the Pride is their second in a row and the fifth in franchise history.