Four two-run home runs, two of them by Megan Wiggins, allowed the Chicago Bandits to cruise to a 10-4 victory over the NPF Diamonds Friday night at Rosemont Stadium in Rosemont, Ill.
The Bandits, who were celebrating First Responders’ Night, opened scoring with Alisa Goler’s two-run homer over the center field fence in the bottom of the first inning.
Morgan Melloh, who pitched all seven innings for the Diamonds Thursday night, held the Bandits scoreless the next two and two-thirds innings. Teammate Angeline Quiocho halved Chicago’s lead in the third. Her 0-1 solo blast off starting pitcher Jamee Juarez left the park just inside the left-field foul pole.
Juarez, who picked up her first victory of the season, went Quiocho one better in the fourth. Her round-tripper scored Nikki Nemitz from first base.
The home run derby continued in the fifth following Danielle Zymkowitz’s leadoff single. Wiggins brought her home with her first home run of the night, a soaring shot over the left field fence.
The Diamonds came back with three runs in the top of the sixth. With Nemitz on the mound in relief of Juarez, Gionna DiSalvatore walked and Bianca Mejia hit her third home run of the season beyond the right field fence.
The third run came on Loryn Johnson’s blooper single into right field. Amanda Williams’s attempt to nail pinch runner Jami Lobpries at third base went over Amber Patton’s head, hit the Diamonds’ dugout, and bounced back onto the field, allowing Lobpries to score.
The Bandits closed down scoring with four more runs in their half of the sixth inning. A Zymkowitz triple into deep left field sent baserunners Juarez and Christine Knauer home. Wiggins’ shot into the right field bleachers scored Zymkowitz.
“I hit a high riser on my first home run and a change-up on my second,” Wiggins said later.
Despite losing the first two games of the four-game series, Melloh is likely to pitch the remaining two games as well. Diamonds coach Tim Kernin said that Kelsi Dunne, their No. 1 rookie draftee from the University of Alabama, had surgery Thursday and is out of the lineup for an indeterminate period of time.
Megan Gibson, who was the Diamonds’ designated player on Friday, and Rhiannon Kliesing, this spring’s highly touted draftee from Texas A&M, are also unavailable right now.
Knowing a pitcher has to stay in the game gives the Bandits a huge advantage.
When you have that much access to a pitcher, Wiggins said, “You know what pitches she has, what her strengths and weaknesses are. From batter to batter we communicate and let each other know what we got from her. We discuss what she has and what we can do with that.
“You can also try to wear her down and not chase bad pitches, just get good ones to hit,” she added.
Kernin downplayed the downside of using only one pitcher for four straight games.
“Morgan is a good pitcher,” Kernin said. “She pitched 40 or 50 games [for Indiana University] this year and has great support from her team and coaches.
“This is the best league in the world. Pitchers are going to get hit.”
Melloh (3-4) is likely to square off against Chicago ace Monica Abbott (5-1) as the Bandits try to improve their National Pro Fastpitch record to 10-5 on Saturday. The game begins at 7:35 p.m. at Rosemont Stadium.