With NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott on the mound, the Chicago Bandits cruised to a convincing 11-1 victory over the Carolina Diamonds Thursday at The Ballpark of Rosemont.
Back to back doubles in the third inning plus a home run by Kristen Butler in the fourth propelled the Bandits to a 4-1 lead and Chicago's powerhouse lineup never looked back.
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If you goWhat: 2012 National Pro Fastpitch Championship Series featuring top professional women's softball teams
When: Today-Sunday at the Ballpark at Rosemont, 27 Jennie Finch Way in Rosemont
Tickets: $5-$15 available at (877) 722-6348), championship.profastpitch.com or at the Ballpark box office before games.
Who: All four NPF teams (Chicago Bandits, USSSA Pride, Carolina Diamonds and Akron Racers) will play a best-of-three series in which the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds compete alongside a series between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. The winners of those two series face off in a best-of-three final series for the championship. A minimum of six games and a maximum of nine games will be played during the series.
Stars: The teams feature nine Olympic medalists from Team USA and three Olympians from Team Canada. Former Bandits star Jennie Finch-Daigle is expected to attend.
Thursday, Aug. 23
Game 1:Bandits vs. Diamonds, 6 p.m.
Game 2: Pride vs. Racers, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 24
Game 3: Pride vs. Racers, 6 p.m.
Game 4:Bandits vs. Diamonds, 8:30
Saturday, Aug. 25*
Game 5:Pride vs. Racers, 11 a.m.
Game 6:Bandits vs. Diamonds, 1:30
* These games may not be necessary depending on the outcome of games on the first two days. If there will only be one game, it will be at 11 a.m.
Game 7: Winners of first series meet in the Finals at 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 26
Game 8: Second game of Finals, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 9: If needed, a third and deciding game of the Finals, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Katie Burkhart (0-1) took the loss for the Diamonds, who grabbed a 1-0 lead off a solo home run by Bianca Mejia. Abbott, who rolled up 14 wins in the regular season, shut down the Diamonds after that, and relievers Nikki Nemitz and Chandra Bell closed out the final two innings for the Bandits.
The two teams meet again at 8:30 p.m. Friday for Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
In Thursday's second game in Rosemont, the Akron Racers took on top-seeded USSSA Pride, and the winner of that series will face the winner of the Bandits series for the NPF Championship.
Last year, Monica Abbott shared the honor of being named Pitcher of the Year with the USSSA Pride's Cat Osterman.
This year, however, there were no doubts as Abbott earned sole ownership of the award at the 2012 NPF Awards Banquet Wednesday night.
Of Abbott's 15 starts this season, 14 were complete games for a total of 125 innings pitched including two no-hitters. Her 14 wins, 190 strikeouts and 7 shutouts led the league while her 1.06 ERA was second to only Osterman.
Bandits outfielder Megan Wiggins, only 5-foot-5, was named the Home Run Champion with 12 homers. Wiggins also posted a .299 batting average, led the league in runs scored with 38, and finished third in RBI with 33.
Third baseman Amber Patton, a speedy and solid fixture in the Bandits lineup, tied with Akron's Sharonda McDonald for the NPF lead in stolen bases with 13 as both earned the Spikes Stolen Bases Award. Patton finished with a .343 batting average including 23 runs and 16 RBIs.
Patton also earned the Co-Defensive Player of the Year award with Akron's Kelley Montalvo. Patton finished with 48 put outs and 67 assists, along with a .991 fielding percentage.
Outfielder Vicky Galindo joined Abbott, Wiggins and Patton as the team's four All-NPF Selections. Galindo finished the regular season with a .260 batting average, 32 hits, 25 runs, 7 RBI and 3 triples.
As the No. 2 seed in the National Pro Fastpitch Championships, the Bandits must win their best-of-three series against the Carolina Diamonds to advance to the Championship Series. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at (877) 722-6348.