Nikki Nemitz’ skillful performance on the mound led the Chicago Bandits to a 4-0 victory over the NPF Diamonds Thursday night in a weather-delayed game at Rosemont Stadium in Rosemont, Ill.
Nemitz (3-1) recorded nine strikeouts and yielded just two hits over the course of Thursday’s game. One of those hits, a freak single, came when the wind caught Bianca Mejia’s high infield fly and dropped it past the outstretched gloves of Danielle Zymkowitz, Jamee Juarez and Nemitz.
“Every umpire has a different strike zone,” Nemitz said, “but you can work your own strike zone depending upon what you show the umpire at the beginning of the game. If I keep throwing my screw ball or curve ball just off the corner of the plate, [chances are] I can get the umpire to stretch the zone a little.”
Nemitz’ batterymate, Rachel Folden, continued to have a hot hand at the plate. Folden, who hit two home runs during the Akron road trip, went 2-for-3 against Diamonds rookie pitcher Morgan Melloh (3-3). Both Folden’s hits were doubles; the first one in the third inning scored Megan Wiggins from second base.
“I’ve hit my comfort zone at bat,” Folden said after the game. “I tried to assume a leadership role and cement my place in the middle of the lineup at the beginning of the year, instead of just play softball. The team is starting to jell, and I feel less pressure to do all that now.”
Caitlin Lever scored the Bandits’ first run after she was hit by a pitch in the second inning. Lever came home on yet another double, this one by Juarez.
Robin Thompson, running for Folden in the fifth inning, scored on Alisa Goler’s single to right field.
Lever wrapped up the Bandits’ scoring with her second home run of the season, a high towering drive in the sixth inning that cleared the center field fence easily.
Ace Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was on hand to throw out the first pitch of the game. Lever “recruited” Zambrano for the task with a Tweet earlier in the week.
Zambrano, who had to leave his own afternoon game at Wrigley Field in the second inning due to minor back soreness, sent an easy overhand lob to Folden behind the plate.
“It’s the second time I’ve caught Zambrano’s first pitch,” Folden said. “The first time was a couple years ago, when we played the Venezuelan national team.
“I really wanted him to chuck the ball so I could see if I could catch it,” Folden confessed.
Zambrano said after the game that he, in return, would like to have a chance to hit against Bandits pitching to see how well he could do.
“If I have a good swing, I should be able to hit [the ball],” Zambrano said.
“But not today,” he said with a laugh, “not with the bad back.”
The umpires stopped the game in the fifth inning when weather sirens sounded in response to dangerous lightning strikes in the area. Bandits officials cleared the stadium of fans and players alike for 80 minutes.
The game resumed with Diamonds right fielder Brianna Hesson at bat at the top of the fifth with an 0-2 count. As it turned out, Hesson waited 80 minutes for the “privilege” of looking at strike three.
With Akron losing its Thursday game to the USSSA Pride, Chicago now holds sole possession of first place in National Pro Fastpitch with a 8-5 record. The Bandits and Diamonds meet again Friday night for their second of four games this weekend at Rosemont Stadium. The starting time is 7:35 p.m.