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NPF Championship Series Underway in Rosemont, Ill.

The 2012 National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series got underway on Thursday evening at The Ballpark in Rosemont, Ill. The No. 2-seeded Chicago Bandits rolled past the No. 3-seeded Carolina Diamonds, 11-1, while the top-seeded USSSA Pride outlasted the fourth-seeded Akron Racers, 4-0, in the opening contests of separate best-of-three series.  For more information on this weekend's festivities, please visit www.ProFastpitch.com.

Bandits defeat Diamonds in Game 1 of Championship Series, 11-1 

ROSEMONT, ILL. -- The No. 2 seed Chicago Bandits took advantage of five errors from the third-seeded Carolina Diamonds Thursday night in the opening game of the 2012 NPF Championship Series, taking the first game of the best two-of-three opening round, 11-1.

The Bandits scored in each inning from the second through the fifth, collecting 10 hits as a team. Alisa Goler led the way with a two hit night, driving in five runs. Amber Patton and Tammy Williams each had a pair of hits while Patton and Megan Wiggins each scored twice. 

Both teams’ leadoff batters led off their respective first inning with walks, but the scoring began with Carolina in the top of the second. All-NPF selection Bianca Mejia drove a one-out offering from Bandits’ starter and NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott deep over the centerfield fence for a solo home run and an early 1-0 Diamonds’ edge.

After the run, Chicago’s pitching staff shut down Carolina’s offense the rest of the way. Abbott earned the win with five innings of work, allowing just the one run on two hits with nine strikeouts. Nikki Nemitz pitched a scoreless sixth and Chanda Bell worked the seventh.

The Bandits evened the score immediately in the bottom half of the inning. Patton led off the frame before the NPF’s Co-Spikes Stolen Bases Award winner swiped second with one down. Later in the frame, Whitney Larsentapped a slow roller off the end of her bat that died in front of the plate. Diamonds’ catcher Rachel Foldenpounced on the ball, but her throw to first was wide, allowing Patton to scamper around and cross the plate to knot the game, 1-1.

After Abbott cruised through the top of the third with her fourth and fifth strikeouts of the contest, Chicago roared into the lead against All-NPF hurler Katie Burkhart. All-NPF choice Wiggins led off the inning with a double down the right-field line before trotting home when slugger Goler doubled herself into the left-field gap. Kristen Butler, who had seven home runs in the regular season, followed by sending a moonshot into the MB Financial Party Deck beyond left field to make it a 4-1 game.

Carolina’s Amanda Kamekona clubbed a two-out triple just beyond the reach of a diving Amanda Williams in the top of the fourth, but Abbott coaxed a routine grounder to third strand the UCLA product at third.

The Bandits continued to apply pressure in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of a trio of Diamonds’ errors in the frame to send two more across the plate for a 6-1 advantage. 

Morgan Melloh took the circle for Carolina in the bottom of the fifth, and the Bandits immediately greeted her with five more runs to extend their cushion to 11-1. Amanda Williams and Goler each delivered two-run hits in the inning for Chicago to conclude the scoring.

Burkhart took the loss in the game, allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits with four strikeouts in 4.0 innings of work. Melloh surrendered five runs (two earned) on five hits in 2.0 innings of work.

The two teams will play the second game of their best two-of-three series at 8:30 p.m. CT tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 24, at the Ballpark at Rosemont.

Pride take first matchup over Racers at Championship Series, 4-0 

ROSEMONT, Ill. – Cat Osterman threw a two-hit shutout to lead the No. 1 seed USSSA Pride to a 4-0 win in the first game of its best two-out-of-three series against the fourth-seeded Akron Racers Thursday during the opening day of action at the NPF Championship Series at the Ballpark of Rosemont.

Osterman was perfect through 3.1 innings of play Thursday night, eventually closing her complete-game shutout victory with 10 strikeouts while allowing only four total base runners on a pair of hits and two walks. 

The Pride opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when catcher Megan Willis crushed a one-out, two-run home run into the MB Financial Party Deck beyond left field off of Akron starter Erin Arevalo.

USSSA added two more runs in the bottom of the third on a pair of two-out Akron errors. After Kristyn Sandbergwas hit by a two-out pitch and Kelly Kretschman beat out a bunt single, consecutive tough grounders to Alicia Herron at short got through to extend the Pride lead to 4-0 on the unearned runs. Kretschman scored two of the Pride’s four runs in the game.

NPF Co-Defensive Player of the Year Kelley Montalvo broke up Osterman’s perfect game bid with one out in the top of the fourth, roping a triple just inside the right-field line. The Pride kept Montalvo at third thanks to a tremendous diving snag at short by Lauren Lappin, who leapt to her left to corral a Briana Hesson shot before rising and firing to first to end the inning.

Lappin led off the fourth with a single back through the middle before Natasha Watley was hit by an Arevalo pitch, prompting the Racers to insert Lisa Norris into the circle. The North Carolina alum retired the next two batters to the plate before a Sandberg walk loaded the bases, but Norris escaped the jam with a strikeout to keep the Racers deficit at 4-0. 

Norris again escaped a jam in the bottom of the sixth when Watley and NPF Player of the Year Caitlin Lowe beat out back-to-back one-out singles. Norris came back to fan All-NPF choice Jessica Mendoza and NPF Rookie of the Year Sandberg to end the inning, but Osterman shut the door before Akron could mount any kind of comeback in the seventh.

Arevalo took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) in three-plus innings of work. She gave up four hits and two walks with one strikeout. Norris tossed 3.0 innings of effective relief, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

**Courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch