TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The USSSA Pride were cognizant of the momentum the Chicago Bandits possessed following their dramatic victory over the Monica Abbott-led Scrap Yard Dawgs on Sunday night for a spot in the best-of-three finals of the NPF Championship Series. The Pride, who advanced to the championship round with a 6–2 win over the Akron Racers earlier in the day, watched from a distance as the defending Cowles Cup champion Bandits celebrated their second consecutive title-series berth with the 2–1 triumph over the Dawgs.
But the Bandits’ celebration was ephemeral, as Game 1 of the championship set—the third contest of the day—was ushered in by a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning off the bat of six-year NPF veteran Megan Wiggins. The blast gave Pride starter Keilani Ricketts an early 1–0 lead, setting the stage for USSSA’s eventual 3–1 win to begin the series.
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“When you go and beat a pitcher like Monica [Abbott] and put it to [the Scrap Yard Dawgs], [the Bandits had] some energy going with their scrappiness, so the energy from that is tough to beat a lot of times,” first-year Pride head coach Lonni Alameda told Excelle Sports about a Chicago squad that swept the Pride last season for the Cowles Cup. “I think scoring first was big and definitely a goal of ours.”
And USSSA’s scoring continued in the bottom of the second frame in much the same fashion as it started the inning before, as Chelsea Goodacre blasted her eighth home run of the season on the first pitch she saw from Bandits starter Morgan Foley, to extend the lead to two runs. An RBI single by Lauren Chamberlain in the third knocked in Wiggins, who got on by way of a lead-off walk, giving the Pride a 3–0 advantage after three innings of play.
The score remained 3–0 until the top of the fifth, when Bandits shortstop Kristen Brown recorded her second home run of the postseason to begin the frame, narrowing the Pride’s lead to two. But the game’s scoring ended there, as Ricketts finished the fifth unscathed and All-NPF reliever Jordan Taylor pitched two scoreless innings to wrap up the opening contest of the championship round.
[More from Excelle Sports: Pride sweep Racers, advance to championship]
“Right now, we’re at the point where we know what we can expect from [Jordan Taylor] and we know what we can get when she goes into a situation,” said Alameda, who is looking to steer the Pride to their fourth Cowles Cup in franchise history. “Same for Keilani [Ricketts] because we’ve been with them so much.”
Ricketts got the Game 1 win, finishing with one earned run, five hits allowed and three strikeouts in five innings of work, while Foley received the loss. Taylor was granted her 10th save of the campaign, tossing two innings of hitless ball with two strikeouts.
The Pride have a chance to wrap up the series and redeem last season’s defeat with a win over the Bandits on Monday in Game 2 of the championship round at Rhoads Stadium. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network.