It looks like Darrick Brown has found himself a winning formula.
The Chicago Bandits romped to 7-1 and 13-1 victories over the NPF Diamonds Wednesday after the Bandits head coach scrambled his batting order and made reserve Alexis Jager a starter for the twin bill.
The lineup Brown submitted Thursday was almost identical to the one for the early game Wednesday, including Monica Abbott in the circle, and he got similar results.
The Bandits pounded the hapless Diamonds for 14 hits and won 10-1 in the finale of a four-game series held in Lexington, N.C. It was Chicago’s third victory in a row.
Abbott and Diamonds starter Rhiannon Kliesing locked horns in a scoreless battle until the fourth inning. Chicago sent nine batters to the plate that inning and scored four runs, fueled by Alisa Goler’s leadoff homer over the center field fence.
After that, the Bandits lit up North Davidson High School’s softball field like a pinball machine. Nikki Nemitz singled and her pinch runner, Robin Thompson, scored on a Jager double. Kliesing (L, 0-3) left the circle after Shannon Doepking singled to put runners on first and third.
Reliever Danielle Spaulding (1-4) fared little better. First baseman Megan Gibson’s error allowed Caitlin Lever to reach base safely while putting Jager on third and pinch runner Kristin Shifflett on second.
Amber Patton’s 6-3 ground-out scored Jager, and Tammy Williams cleared the bases with her second triple of the year.
Goler put the hurt on Spaulding the next inning with another blast over the center field fence to make the score 6-1.
Spaulding struggled to control her rise pitches all night. The last Chicago baserunner in the fifth, all three baserunners in the sixth, and the leadoff batter in the seventh got on courtesy of Spaulding walks.
Kriesling returned to the circle in the seventh with two Bandits on and no outs. After yielding an RBI double and a run-scoring sac fly to pinch hitters Jamee Juarez and Amanda Williams, Kriesling served up an irresistible 3-2 pitch to yet another pinch hitter, Dorian Shaw, with Juarez on second.
The online announcers estimated Shaw’s drive sailed at least 300 feet from home plate for her second home run and third and fourth RBIs of the year.
Abbott (W, 11-3) celebrated her 26th birthday with her usual aplomb in the circle, allowing five hits and striking out 10 batters while walking three. The only blemish came in the Diamonds’ fourth, when Brianna Hesson singled home Gibson for their lone run.
The 10 Ks put Abbott ahead of the USSSA Pride’s Cat Osterman for the National Pro Fastpitch strikeout lead, 124-115. Abbott’s ERA also dropped to a league-leading 0.091.
Goler’s back-to-back home runs make her the first NPF player to hit double digits in that category this year (10) and jumped her batting average to .329.
Since moving into the leadoff spot, Tammy Williams has gone 4-for-9 with one home run (her first of the year) and four RBIs.
Similarly, Jager has gone 4-for-10, hit her first homer of the season and garnered five RBIs since becoming a starter.
The victory moves Chicago (18-14) a half-game ahead of the Akron Racers (16-13), who dropped a 5-0 decision to the Pride Thursday. The Bandits are four and one-half games behind the first-place Pride (20-7).
The Bandits get the rest of July off and won’t return to action until Aug. 4, when they return to Rosemont Stadium for a crucial four-game series with the Racers. The Aug. 4-6 games have a 7:35 p.m. start time, while the Aug. 7 closer begins at 5:35 p.m.