It's been a tough stretch for the Chicago Sky, losers of 12 of its last 13 games over the last few weeks.
But just down the street from Allstate Arena, the other professional women's sports team in Rosemont has been playing some of its best ball of the season lately.
The Chicago Bandits, one of four softball teams in the National Professional Fastpitch league, have been hosting the NPF Championship Series this week at their custom-designed, 2,000-seat stadium that can be seen from the Tri-State Tollway in Rosemont just north of Balmoral Avenue. It's call The Ballpark at Rosemont.
The Bandits entered Friday's second game of their three-game semifinal series against the Carolina Diamonds with a 1-0 lead. A win either Friday (or Saturday, if necessary) would put the Bandits in a championship playoff Sunday against the winner of the other three-game semifinal series, which is between USSSA Pride and the Akron Racers.
If the Bandits can win again in front of the home crowd on Sunday (2:30 p.m., ESPN2), they'd sew up their second straight league championship and their third title in five years.
A big reason the Bandits have had so much success the past couple of seasons is that they've got one of the best pitchers in the game in Monica Abbott. She shared the NPF's Pitcher of the Year award last season with Cat Osterman, but won it outright this year.
Abbott's 14 wins, 190 strikeouts (in 125.2 innings) and 7 shutouts led the league while her 1.06 earned run average was second to Osterman.
Meanwhile, Amber Patton, a Bandits infielder out of DePaul, was named the NPF's co-Defensive Player of the Year, sharing the honor with Akron's Kelley Montalvo.
Abbott, Patton, and fellow Bandits teammates Vicky Galindo, an infielder, and Megan Wiggins, an outfielder who led the league in home runs (12), were all-NPF selections.
Check 'em out:
A night at the ol' ballpark (in Rosemont) isn't too tough on the pocketbook. Tickets for Bandits games range from $5 for outfield seats to $15 for box seats.
Depending on how many third games need to be played in the best-of-three semifinal series as well as in the final series, there could be as many as five NPF Championship Series games played at the Ballpark at Rosemont over the course of Saturday and Sunday.
Check profastpitch.com or chicagobandits.com for the most up-to-date schedule.
Did you know?
The Bandits have been part of National Pro Fastpitch since 2005.
NPF has been around since 1997 under various names, including Women's Pro Fastpitch and Women's Pro Softball League. Since 2002, it has been the official developmental partner of Major League Baseball for women's fastpitch softball.
Sky season winding down
There are only five more Sky home games left this season.
With a total of 12 games left, the Sky is only a half-game out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A berth in the playoffs would be the first in the Sky's seven-year history.
The Sky's next home game at Allstate Arena is 7 p.m. Tuesday against Eastern Conference leader Connecticut. In September, there are home games against Naperville native Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks, the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx as well as the Atlanta Dream and the Washington Mystics, both Eastern Conference foes.
Check www.chicagosky.net for game details.
Patricia Babcock McGraw has covered the Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She is also the color analyst for all Sky television games, which are broadcast on Comcast CN100.