You could call it “Cat’s Pride.”
Cat Osterman threw a masterful two-hitter as the USSSA Pride avenged Thursday night’s 6-5 loss to the Chicago Bandits by thrashing them 9-0 Friday night at Rosemont Stadium.
Only Tammy Williams (double) and Amber Patton (single) hit safely against the left-handed ace, who struck out 10 batters and walked three.
It was a happy turnaround for Osterman (W, 14-2), who lost 5-1 the last time the Pride played in Rosemont (June 18).
At the time, Osterman blamed herself for not getting the job done. She had no such regrets Friday.
The 10 strikeouts give her 156 for the season, 16 more than Chicago’s Monica Abbott (12-4), who has not played since Aug. 7.
The seven scoreless innings dropped Osterman’s ERA to 0.94 – second behind Abbott’s 0.80.
“Mechanically and mentally, I got in a better groove [since then],” Osterman said after Friday’s shutout. “I am usually a strikeout pitcher, and I got frustrated early in the season when that wasn’t happening.”
The Pride pounded Bandits pitchers Nikki Nemitz (L, 4-4) and Jamee Juarez for 11 hits, including three home runs. Two of those – back-to-back shots by Francesca Enea and Ashley Charters at the start of the fifth inning – knocked Nemitz out of the circle.
Nemitz’s troubles started long before the home run barrage, however. For the second game in a row, the Pride scored in the first inning.
Once again, Charlotte Morgan got the first RBI of the game, this time with a single over second base that scored Natasha Watley.
Morgan scored a few moments later on Enea’s single into left field, one of three RBIs Enea collected Friday.
The Pride scored in all but two innings (the second and seventh). Kelly Kretschman’s solo shot over the center field in the fourth was the first of three runs the Pride scored that inning, its biggest of the game.
The final run of the game came in the sixth, when Watley scored on Morgan’s sacrifice fly to center field.
The Bandits had their best chance to score in the sixth. They loaded the bases on an error, a hit batsman and a base-on-balls with two out before Osterman caught Juarez looking at a third strike inside for the final out.
Morgan credited good planning for much of the Pride’s success this year, including an 18-game winning streak in July and early August.
“As long as you try to go in with a good game plan, you can be successful,” she said. “Go up and swing at good pitches. Then later in the game, you can protect [the plate] but still be smart.”
The one bright spot for the Bandits was another solid performance by Juarez, who is emerging as a short relief ace. Juarez gave up one run and two hits in three innings of work Friday. That followed another one-run performance Thursday night.
“I like the fact I can come in and shut things down,” Juarez said later. “You need a little different mindset [for relief work]. When you start, you have to go from the get-go. When I go in now, I feel more relaxed.”
The Akron Racers (21-17) put a full game between themselves and the Bandits (20-18) in the National Pro Fastpitch standings following Lisa Norris’ near-perfect no-hitter Friday against the NPF Diamonds. The Pride (28-9) has already locked up the regular season championship.
Two games remain for the Bandits and Pride before the teams head to Sulphur, La., for the NPF Championship Series Aug. 18-21. The Bandits will wear special pink uniforms to promote breast cancer awareness during Saturday’s “Pink in the Park Night” game that starts at 7:35 p.m.
Sunday’s “Fan Appreciation Day” finale begins at 5:35 p.m. and will feature special prize giveaways for fans attending the game.