ROSEMONT, Ill. — Jenna Caira came into Friday night’s game having pitched 27.2 innings this season without allowing an earned run. But that didn’t seem to bother Amanda Chidester and the rest of the Bandits’ offense.
Chidester set the tone with a two-run home run in the first inning, and the Bandits (9-3) broke the game open in the fourth and cruised from there to a 7-1 victory over the Canadian Wild (13-7) in the opener of a six-game series.
“We wanted to come in and eliminate the effect of (Caira’s) off-speed,” coach Lauren Lappin said. “You can take a deep breath when you put up a couple in the first inning. It set the tone for the rest of our offense the rest of the night.”
Danielle O’Toole kept the Wild’s bats in check, allowing just one unearned run on three hits over five strong innings. The Wild scratched across a run against her in the third on a bases-loaded walk, but O’Toole limited the damage on a pair of ground-ball outs.
The Bandits opened up their lead in the fourth. Abbey Cheek led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout. Gwen Svekis hit her second double of the game to drive in the third run, and Jessie Scroggins’ single plated another. The Bandits added one more in the inning to make it a 5-1 game. In all, the Bandits got to Caira for three earned runs and five runs in all in four innings.
“We know that we have incredible offensive threats throughout our lineup and on the bench,” Lappin said. “To be able to see us swing confidently and work counts and be able to execute like we did is pretty special.”
Back-to-back home runs by Emily Crane and Svekis in the fifth accounted for the final margin. Crane’s blast to right was her third homer in five games, while Svekis’ blast to center was her third extra-base hit of the night. In all, the Bandits recorded six extra-base hits, including three from Svekis and two by Chidester.
O’Toole was not always at her sharpest, but she pitched tough, getting just one strikeout but recording nine of her 15 outs on the ground. Kelly Barnhill held the Wild scoreless over the final two innings to complete the win.
“(O’Toole) is an ace for us,” Lappin said. “She’s a great way to start any series, and that’s the O’Toole we’ll see more often than not. We made some great defensive plays behind her. We were able to shut down some rallies with some big plays.”
The Bandits’ win was their third straight and fifth in six games, and they continue to sit in second place in the NPF standings. They will be back in action tomorrow for a doubleheader against the Wild, with the first game being a makeup of a rainout last weekend in Marion, Ill. Game one will start at 4:30 p.m. CT, with the nightcap scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets, and USSSA Pride. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada, China, and Mexico, and represent the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.