ELGIN - With the first three games between the Philadelphia Force and Chicago Bandits each reaching thrilling climaxes in the seventh inning, Game 4 of series was up to the challenge of delivering another heart stopper.
Enter rookie Samantha Findlay.
Chicago tied the game in the seventh inning at 5-5 and with Nicole Trimboli on base. Findlay hit a changeup off of Philadelphia's pitcher Katie Burkhart. It began to sail into center field when the Force's Sharonda McDonald turned around to chase it. It looked like a base hit possibly hit hard enough to score Trimboli, but it was more than enough. The ball bounced off the yellow guarding on the top of the fence and then disappeared. Findlay hit a two run walk off homer and the Bandits pulled off a 7-5 win against the Force Saturday night at the Judson Sports complex and each team won two games of the series in National Pro Fastpitch action.
"It was a changeup, I've been seeing them in the past but have been missing, this time I got the timing down," Findlay said. "It was a chopper, I knew it was enough to score the runner and wasn't really thinking about the home run."
Trailing 5-3 in the seventh inning, Stacy May and Kristie Fox led off the inning with two singles. With one out Jamie Clark crushed the ball into the gap in right center. May scored and Fox-the tying run-reached third. Chicago tied the game one pitch later. With Nicole Trimboli batting, Burkart threw a dart, low that got past catcher Kristen Miller and as it rolled to the backstop, Fox came home to tie the game 5-5. Clark tried to score when Trimboli bunted but as tagged out. This paved the way for Findlay to come up to the plate.
"It's two great teams going at it, they're going to battle and battle and battle," Bandits coach Mickey Dean said. "What more can you ask for."
Katie Burkhart (6-3) gave up three hits over the first five innings before the Bandits got to her. All of a sudden the Bandits' (15-13) bats found the ball and connected down 4-0. Mindy Cowles led off the inning with a single and with two outs and Stacy May brought her home with a single.
Then came a very nice sound for Chicago. Boink. Cha-ching. Kristie Fox smashed a Burkhart fastball that ricocheted off the scoreboard in left field. On three swings, the Bandits were three runs closer. Philadelphia led 4-3 after the fifth inning.
The following inning the Force (19-9) answered with another home run into the left field war zone, already damaged with craters from three previous softballs that left the park. Spencer did the damage this time with the bases empty and Philadelphia upped the score to 5-3.
Jessica Sallinger (6-5) came in to relieve Thorson after Spencer's home run in the sixth inning. In second start against her former team, Thorson gave up five hits, five runs and struck out five.
Philadelphia scored first when hybrid Megan Gibson-playing first base after spending the first three games as a pitcher and designated player-connected on a Kristina Thorson 3-2 pitch and the ball sailed over the left field scoreboard. Chelsea Spencer walked the previous at bat and the Force led 2-0.
Thorson settled down after giving up the home run to Gibson and retired the next nine batters but Savannah Long led off the fifth inning by tattooing a Thorson pitch way past the left center fence. On two hits Philadelphia held a 3-0 advantage. The hits began to come for the Force. Kristen Miller singled and Clare Burnum brought her home with a RBI double up the middle and Philadelphia went up 4-0.
The Bandits will now embark on the team's longest road trip of the season with 12 straight games away from the Judson Sports Complex. On Monday, July 21, the Force and Chicago will play four games in Allentown, PA. The Bandits return home with a four game series against the New England Riptide from August 8-11. Tickets are available by calling 877-7BANDIT or visiting www.chicagobandits.com.