| Photo Gallery
Lisle, Ill.Despite intermittent showers, the festivities surrounding the Opening Night of the Chicago Bandits professional fastpitch softball franchise went off as planned and as anticipated Team USA Gold Medal winning pitcher Jennie Finch stole the show in Chicagos 6-2 victory over Australia.
Finch, who set the NCAA record for consecutive wins with 60 while at the University of Arizona, struck out three batters in the first inning, while allowing only a single walk.
In the bottom of the first inning, second baseman and second batter Anne Steffan recorded the first hit in Chicago Bandits history with a bunt to the Australian third baseman Stacey Porter, who rushed the throw and short-hopped past first baseman Danica Howlett allowed Steffan to advance to second base, however, the subsequent Bandits batters could not bring her in. The former Nebraska Cornhusker utilized her blazing speed by slapping the ball from the left side to beat out the errant throw from Porter.
In the top of the second inning, Finch continued her domination, recording groundball putouts from the first two batters of the inning and struck out designated player Belinda Summerville to end the frame.
In the bottom-half of the second, third baseman Gina Oaks lead off with a bloop-single over the outstretched glove of Porter, that kicked up chalk as it fell in. Catcher Selena Collins strode to the plate next for Chicago and grounded short to Porter who charged and fired to second baseman Leah Quakenbuch to erase Oaks on the fielders choice. Despite an impressive 12-pitch at-bat, Christina Enea popped up to shortstop Fiona Crawford and Bandits centerfielder Venus Taylor struck to end the inning. Enea arrived on Thursday, just five days after her Oklahoma Sooners were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
The top of the third frame saw Finch extend her streak of consecutive outs to nine, striking out two Aussies and another groundball back to the circle.
Heading into the fourth inning, the Australian team brought in Catherine Bishop to replace McCollum in the circle. After the starter for Australia had retired the side in order in the bottom of the third, Bishop continued the trend sitting down six-straight Bandits batters in the fourth and fifth innings.
Finch carried a no-hit attempt into the top of the sixth inning, but after sitting down the first two batters, Kerry Wyborn hit a hard shot between the pitchers legs to break up the bid. However, Wyborn was erased by Collins, while trying to steal second, and the side was retired.
In the bottom half of the sixth inning, left fielder Laura Harms drew a walk to lead off the frame, and subsequently stole second with Megan Ciolli at the plate. Ciolli followed the walk with a scorching base hit into center. Harms was held up at third, and Ciolli moved to second on the throw into the infield. Steffan loaded the bases with an intentional walk to set the table for the University of Washingtons All-Time home run leader, Jaime Clark.
Clark delivered in the most unusual of ways. After launching a ball over the leftfield fence foul, the shortstop hit a sky-high pop to left fielder Amanda Doman. Having camped under the fly, the ball bounced out of the fielders glove and fell safely to the outfield grass. Harms alertly scurried home, and as Ciolli raced into third, the incoming throw hit her in the back. As the ball careened towards Ciolli and towards the dugout, the former Notre Dame star scored the second run.
Finch was next up for the Bandits and was promptly walked intentionally to reload the bases. After an Oaks pop out to Porter, Collins was walked to force in the third run of the inning, with Steffan crossing the plate.
Up next, Enea drew the second-straight walk, which plated Jaime Clark. Haley Viefhaus followed, pinch-hitting for Taylor, and delivered a single up the middle scoring both pinch runners, Kate Varde and Mel Wallach, to move the score to 6-0 in favor of the Bandits.
In the top of the seventh, Porter recorded a base hit and catcher Natalie Titcume hit a hard shot that bounced off the glove of Steffan to put two runners on.
Howlett came up next for Australia and ended Finchs bid for the shutout, by doubling off the left field fence and plating both runners. Finch retired the next two batters to earn the first victory in Chicago Bandits history.
Finch finished the game with 12 strikeouts and four put outs. She allowed two earned runs on only three base hits and one walk.
Inactive Bandit and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Leah OBrien-Amico and fellow National teamer Jessica Mendoza opened the evening by throwing simultaneous ceremonial underhand pitches.
During the game, Bandits owner and general manager Bill Conroy announced that all fans in attendance on Opening Night, could purchase tickets for the remainder of the season for just $4.
The Chicago Bandits and the Australian National Team will continue their four-game series on Friday at the Benedictine University Sports Complex at 7:00 PM. Canadian Olympian Lauren Bay will occupy the circle for the Bandits in Fridays game. Call 1-877-7BANDITS or Ticketmaster for all Chicago Bandits ticket needs.
For the most up-to-date information on the Chicago Bandits, live stats, and internet radio broadcasts during all home games, visit the Official Website of the Chicago Bandits, ChicagoBandits.com