Alisa Goler sent a Danielle Lawrie change-up pitch soaring over the center field wall in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Chicago Bandits to a 6-5 victory over the USSSA Pride Thursday night at Rosemont Stadium.
Goler’s walk-off home run, her 11th round-tripper of the year, capped a rally that began in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Pride leading 4-0.
With one out and pinch runner Robin Thompson on first, Stacy May-Johnson celebrated her first game with the Bandits since coming out of retirement by sending an inside rise ball over the left field fence, just inside the foul pole.
Although the Pride scored in the top of the seventh when Caitlin Lever’s throwing error allowed Charlotte Morgan to score from third, Chicago capitalized on two uncharacteristic errors by Pride third baseman Andrea Duran to set the stage for Goler’s dramatic game-ending hit.
“We knew we had gotten sloppy the inning before and had gotten away with giving up just the one run in the top of the seventh,” Goler said afterward. “We had a lull. We recognized it and bounced back.
“Ideally, though, you don’t want to wait until the bottom of the seventh [to do that].”
The Pride took an early 1-0 lead when Morgan singled Jessica Mendoza home with two out in the first inning.
The Bandits wasted their own first-inning scoring opportunity when they left Danielle Zymkowitz and Goler stranded on first and second with one out.
Lawrie shut the Bandits down the next four innings. The Canadian ace allowed no one to make it past first base, striking out three and walking no one.
Bandits starter Donna Bourgeois similarly held the Pride scoreless from the second through fifth innings, striking out three and walking one.
Bourgeois faded quickly in the sixth, however, after Tammy Williams misplayed Morgan’s grounder to short and allowed her to reach first safely.
With one on and no outs, Francesca Enea doubled to right center. Ashley Charters followed with a triple that eluded a diving Lever and sent home pinch runners Kelsey Bruder and Jenn Salling.
Bourgeois then loaded the bases on two singles, a passed ball and a walk. Reliever Jamee Juarez (W, 2-6) struck Mendoza out to end the inning.
Riding a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh, Lawrie caught leadoff batter Shannon Doepking looking at a third strike before things went south for the Pride.
Lever redeemed herself for the earlier throwing error with a single into left. Amber Patton’s triple allowed Lever to score.
Duran then muffed Megan Wiggins’ weak infield ground ball to miss the play at first and compounded the error by throwing wildly past third trying to catch Patton off-base. That allowed Patton to score and put Wiggins on first awaiting Goler’s at-bat.
“I think we did a better job late in the game of fouling off [Danielle’s] change-up pitches until we got a good pitch,” May-Johnson said later.
“That is what it is all about: doing a better job against the pitcher as the game goes on.”
Lawrie (L, 9-3), was philosophic about the loss.
“That’s just the way it works sometimes,” she said. “That inning showed a couple of things we need to get better at.
“You can never be complacent out there. It was good to be challenged tonight and go home with your mind racing and saying, ‘What could I have done differently?’”
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bandits and keeps them tied with the Akron Racers for second place. Both teams have 20-17 records with three games remaining.
The Bandits and Pride face each other again Saturday at Rosemont Stadium, beginning at 7:35 p.m.