As she stepped onto the pitching rubber to begin the Chicago Bandits' season Thursday night, Monica Abbott picked up right where she left off.
Despite arriving in Chicago at 2 a.m. Thursday, Abbott held the USSSA Pride to 1 hit in the Bandits' 4-1 victory on opening night in Rosemont.
An announced crowd of 924 fans, many of them youth softball players in full uniform, came out to see the Bandits defeat the same team it had defeated in the final game of the 2011 season to clinch the National Pro Fastpitch championship.
Abbott got off to an unspectacular start, giving up 3 walks over the first four innings, but she settled in to strike out eight over the last four innings.
"Having jet lag and traveling a lot before games is usually a little rough on your legs," Abbott said. "When I first went out there, I thought my timing was a little off."
Despite her less-than-stellar command, no Pride player was able to break through for a hit until the sixth inning, when Francesca Enea dropped an off-speed pitch into left field.
The win marked the first under the dual leadership of Mike Steuerwald and Keith Berg, who has been Abbott's pitching coach since she was in high school.
With only four teams in the league, the Bandits and Pride -- two teams with some of the league's most recognizable players-- have grown familiar with each other.
While the Bandits were the eventual 2011 champions, the Pride had the best record during the regular season.
"That's one great thing about playing the Bandits, is every game's a big game and everyone's going to come out offensively and defensively," Pride first baseman Charlotte Morgan said. "It's just a great atmosphere."
The teams will face off three more times this weekend, starting with a 7:35 p.m. game Friday night.