Can Chicago Bandits upset Pride in NPF Championship Series?
The Chicago Bandits, who concluded the regular season with a record of 25-24, will open play Thursday in the NPF Championship Series at the No. 4 seed at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
For the 2015 and 2016 Cowles Cup champions, it's their 10th consecutive trip to the postseason, and they will face the No. 1 seeded USSSA Pride in a best-of-three series in the opening round.
Here are three keys to a successful playoff run for the Bandits:
Australian southpaw Kaia Parnaby captured six wins in seven starts while pacing the Bandits with a 1.56 ERA during the regular season. Against a potent Pride offense that topped the league in both average (.296) and power (56 home runs) numbers, the first-year pro limited USSSA to a .224 clip at the plate.
The Bandits will need to solve Pride pitcher Keilani Ricketts to win this series. Ricketts, a fifth-year southpaw from Oklahoma, compiled a 10-3 mark in the regular season with a team-high 72 strikeouts. Although Ricketts held the Bandits to a .216 average at the plate during the regular season, Bandits leadoff hitter Brenna Moss had success, batting .500.
The fifth inning has been the key frame for the Bandits throughout the regular season. In the fifth, the Bandits outscored their opponents by an 18-run margin, the widest gap of any inning. The Bandits own a 24-5 record when leading or tied after five, compared to 1-18 when they trail after five.
"I can't wait to get my cleats in the dirt and play again at LSU. I need our fans. I am counting on them." -- Sahvanna Jaquish, Bandits catcher and four-time All-American at LSU
• Over the past seven games, Bandits first baseman Megan Blank has tore it up at the plate, batting .357 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI.
• Despite their limited success against the Pride during the regular season (2-8 head-to-head), the Bandits have knocked off their Florida-based opponent in each of the past two postseasons.