Rachel Folden went 3-for-3 and drove in all of Chicago’s runs as the Chicago Bandits defeated the NPF Diamonds 3-1 at Rosemont Stadium in Rosemont, Ill.
Folden’s first-inning double into the gap in left center field scored Megan Wiggins. The University of Georgia rookie had singled to lead off the inning.
For her next at-bat, Folden singled sharply to right field, sending Tammy Williams and Danielle Zymkowitz home.
Folden finished out the night with a leadoff single in the fourth inning.
“I’ve been working on some things in batting practice,” Folden said after the game. “Most of it has been that I’ve been worrying about hitting inside. I tend to fly open too early.
“So [I’m working on] keeping my shoulder forward, keeping it a little more closed. If I open up too early, I pull off the ball.
“Fortunately for me, [Diamonds pitcher Megan Gibson] left a couple pitches over the plate, and I was a little more aggressive about swinging at them today.”
The Diamonds scored their only run of the night in the third. After hitting Brittany McKinney with her first pitch of the inning, Bandits pitcher Monica Abbott sent a pitch over Jami Lobpries’s head that allowed McKinney to get to second.
Two pitches later, Lobpries bunted. The ball threaded its way past Abbott, second baseman Zymkowitz and first baseman Jamee Juarez into right field as McKinney raced home.
“It was a miscommunication [that let that ball get through],” Abbott said of Lobpries’s hit. “‘Z’ hasn’t played that much at second base and [although] she is getting more playing time, we haven’t been able to practice that play with me on the mound.”
Abbott committed the only error in the game when she fielded a bunt from the next batter, Kristin Schnake, and threw the ball past Juarez into right field.
With runners on second and third and no one out, Abbott bore down and struck out the heart of the Diamonds’ lineup – GiOnna DiSalvatore, Bianca Mejia and Gibson – to get out of the inning with minimal damage.
“I think that with pitching in general, it is hard to field [a batted ball],” Abbott said of her throwing error. “You finish up with an explosive movement forward, and if something is hit to your left or right, it’s hard to change balance quickly.”
Starting with her third-inning strikeout victims, Abbott (6-1) retired 15 consecutive batters on her way to a two-hit victory. She struck out 12 to bring her season total to 60, just four behind National Pro Fastpitch leader Cat Osterman.
Gibson (1-3) took the loss for the Diamonds. She was a surprise starter; Morgan Melloh had been expected to pitch the entire series because Gibson and rookie Kelsi Dunne are nursing injuries.
“I was just trying to do what I could to give Morgan a rest and help our team,” Gibson said. “I injured my knee the second game of the season. There are five different things going on inside it, and it’s really throbbing right now.
“I tried to do a good job of mixing [pitches] up, and I think I did better than I expected,” Gibson continued. “They had four hits on bunts today, which are hard to field [if you have a knee problem].”
The Bandits and Diamonds close out their four-game series at the Rosemont Stadium with a 5:35 p.m. game on Sunday. Chicago currently has a two-game lead over the Akron Racers and the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch with a 10-5 record.