TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A left-handed pitcher stole the show on Friday night in Game 1 of the NPF Championship Series between the second-seeded Scrap Yard Dawgs and third-seeded Chicago Bandits, and her name is not Monica Abbott. Instead, it was Bandits southpaw starter Angel Bunner who made headlines, outdueling the NPF’s million-dollar woman by pitching five innings of six-hit ball, while allowing just two earned runs and striking out three in an 11–2 Bandits victory.
Bunner, an Auburn-product who missed the 2015 NPF season after being released by the Pennsylvania Rebellion, signed with the Bandits in July.
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“I was just prepared to let them put the ball in play and let my defense do their jobs,” Bunner, who went 1–3 with a 3.55 ERA in the regular season, told Excelle Sports following the game. “I don’t treat any game differently.”
Abbott, who faced her former team and the reigning Cowles Cup champions on Friday, faltered from the get-go, as she surrendered back-to-back home runs to Brittany Cervantes and Amanda Kamekona in the first inning, despite giving up just four bombs all season.
“It wasn’t my best game this year,” Abbott, who permitted just 13 earned runs in the regular season and four on Friday, told Excelle Sports following her team’s loss. “It’s me trying to do a little too much. I didn’t have the start I wanted.”
After tacking on three runs in the first, Chicago added a run in the top of the second, thanks to an RBI single by Jill Barrett that drove in Megan Blank, who singled to right field earlier in the inning. The Dawgs got on the board in the home half of the second, as rookie Jade Rhodes, a 2015 Auburn graduate who blasted 20 home runs in her senior season, launched a solo shot to center field.
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But the scoring stalled until the top of the sixth inning, when an error by Dawgs third baseman Amanda Fama on a bunt by Sammy Marshall brought Blank home from second, after she got on by way of a double. The overthrow to first allowed the speedy Marshall, the league’s Rally Spikes Award winner, to score and extend Chicago’s lead to 6–1.
The Dawgs got the run back in the bottom of the sixth, however, as Madison Shipman launched a solo shot over the left field fence to narrow the Bandits’ lead to four. A subsequent Rhodes single knocked Bunner from the game, giving way to rookie Shelby Turnier, who shut down the Dawgs for the remainder of the inning.
The Bandits broke the game open in the top of the seventh—highlighted by a three-run home run by Kristen Brown—scoring five to take an 11–2 lead into the final frame. Turnier made quick work of the Dawgs in the seventh, securing the convincing win for her squad, which took place in front of an NPF Championship Series first-day record 1,895 fans.
Abbott, who was relieved by fan-favorite and University of Alabama graduate Jackie Traina in the top of the seventh, was charged with the loss after allowing eight hits and four earned runs.
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When asked if she could pitch two games against the Bandits on Saturday, Abbott responded like one would expect a two-time defending Pitcher of the Year to.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for us to win,” she said.
The Bandits and Dawgs will meet for Game 2 of the best-of-three opening-round series on Saturday at noon ET, with the if necessary game scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.