Amid rain-soaked Saturday, Monica Abbott-led Dawgs force winner-take-all against Bandits

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Weather delays owned the day and night on Saturday during the NPF Championship Series, which saw more than an eight-hour gap between the start and finish of the second-seeded Scrap Yard Dawgs’ 10–1 win over the third-seeded Chicago Bandits. The game, which was finally called at 9:04 p.m. CT, ended after five official innings of play. While the top-seeded USSSA Pride and fourth-seeded Akron Racers were unable to take the field on Saturday at Rhoads Stadium for Game 2 of the other opening-round series—which the Pride currently lead 1–0—the Dawgs’ win evened up their set with the Bandits at one game apiece.

Before the sky opened up over the campus of the University of Alabama just before 1 p.m. CT, however, Dawgs starting pitcher Monica Abbott was the story of the day. Abbott, who allowed eight hits and four earned runs in her team’s 11–2 loss to Chicago on Friday night, emerged just one day later like the player who collected her second consecutive NPF Pitcher of the Year honor on Thursday.

[More from Excelle Sports: Abbott, Kretschman headline 2016 NPF Awards]

On her way to improving her 2016 record to 19–2, Abbott—the first million-dollar woman in the league’s history—tossed four innings of one-hit ball. She also recorded five strikeouts and allowed one earned run, a solo shot to Bandits left fielder Natalie Hernandez in the top of the second inning.

Following Hernandez’s blast in the second, the Dawgs responded right back, notching four runs in the bottom of the frame against Bandits starter Michelle Gascoigne. The biggest hit of the inning, and perhaps of the game, came off the bat of rookie Kiki Stokes in the form of a two-out, three-run home run—her eighth of the year—to give the Dawgs a 4–1 lead.

But they weren’t done there. The Dawgs put up four more runs in the fourth, prompted by an RBI single from Emily Crane, as well as a hit by pitch of Nerissa Myers with the bases loaded by Bandits reliever Lacey Waldrop, who entered the game for Gascoigne earlier in the inning. Waldrop was subsequently replaced by Sara Moulton, who then afforded a two-run single to Madison Shipman.

[More from Excelle Sports: A.J. Andrews wins first-ever softball Gold Glove]

Dawgs rookie Sara Driesenga, a former University of Michigan right-hander, entered the contest for Abbott with an 8–1 lead in the fifth, tossing what proved to be the final inning of the day for her team. The Dawgs tacked on two more runs in the fifth, when the whipping wind allowed a ball off the bat of Stokes to fall in for a two-RBI triple. The rain delay began at the start of the sixth, halting the action for the remainder of the day.

The Dawgs and Bandits will now meet for a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday at 4 p.m. CT, with the winner of that game earning a spot in the championship round, which begins Monday at a to-be-determined time. The Pride and Racers are set to play Game 2 of their series on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT, with the if-necessary game coming at 7 p.m. CT.

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