ELGIN, IL - When the Chicago Bandits and Rockford Thunder played each other in the opening series of the 2008 season, the Thunder won three of four games.
At that conjunction of the season, few outside the Bandits dugout would have predicted the team to finish in first place. Now with one game remaining in the regular season, Chicago is one game away of winning the National Pro Fastpitch Regular Season Championship.
Chicago won the third straight game against the Rockford Thunder and 11th overall 4-1 Saturday night in NPF play at the Judson Sports Complex.
The Bandits (31-16) scored all of their runs in the first two innings and staring pitcher Kristina Thorson (12-5) was nearly untouchable. Thorson allowed five hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts.
"My pitching was different, my drop ball was working and it caught [Rockford] off guard," Thorson said. "You can't rely on the lead and have to pitch like it is still 1-0 or tied, when you think that you are ahead is when you relax and bad things can happen."
In each game of this series, the Bandits have scored runs at least two runs in the first inning. This time Jamie Clark hit her 11th home run of the season after a Stacy May double and Chicago led 2-0. Samantha Findlay added her eighth home run of the season that an absolute blast that reached its maximum height above second base and continued to fly until it was past the center field bleachers. May gave Chicago a 4-0 lead second inning with an RBI single that scored Mindy Cowles.
"Our team is a great hitting team," Clark said. "I don't look at my stats though because I think it is bad luck. As for the seeding, it's important to build momentum for the playoffs because nothing is going to be easy."
The Thunder's (18-29) Stephanie Best broke up Thorson's shutout in the seventh wit a solo home run that made the score 4-1.
Allison Kime (9-10) pitched a complete game for Rockford. In six innings Kime surrendered seven hits, four runs and seven walks with six strikeouts.
"We're trying to drive the importance of playing seven innings, not three here and three there, and hitting throughout the game," Bandits coach Mickey Dean said. "Kristina changed speeds really well and made [Rockford's] hitters work really hard. And Rachel called a great game."
The Chicago Bandits are in its fourth season in the National Pro Fastpitch women's professional softball league and have qualified for the playoffs three times. Established in 2005, the Bandits moved to Elgin, IL in 2008 and play at Judson University. Chicago won the NPF Regular Season Championship in both 2005 and 2006. Season tickets, group tickets and individual tickets are available and start at $10. For more information call 877-7BANDIT or visit www.chicagobandits.com.