Chicago Bandits ace pitcher Monica Abbott is quickly becoming a “one-hit wonder” – in the best sense of the phrase.
The Bandits took Cat Osterman and the USSSA Pride down 1-0 Friday night in Rosemont, on the strength of Abbott’s third one-hitter of the season.
The 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Co-Pitchers of the Year yielded only four hits and five walks between them. Abbott (W, 6-0-3) finished the game with 10 strikeouts, while Osterman (L, 2-2-0) had nine.
Chicago (11-3) scored the only run it would need in the third inning, when Amber Patton’s third double of the year brought home Vicky Galindo.
“Cat throws a lot of spin,” Patton said afterward. “The biggest thing is seeing the ball really deep and tracking it. With her, you will get your best pitch in the beginning of the at-bat.”
Patton, who started the night batting .372 and went 1-for-3, also starred defensively. Her bang-bang putout of leadoff batter Ashley Charters in the first set the defensive tone for the rest of the night.
“A defensive play [like that] feels good, it pumps you up,” Patton said. “My teammates got fired up on that play, too. You want to play the best defense behind Monica.”
Friday’s victory was the Bandits’ fifth over the Pride in six tries this season. It also marked the fifth straight win over USSSA for Abbott, dating back to the two-game NPF Championship Series finale last August.
Abbott one-hit the Pride in Chicago’s 4-1 season-opening victory on June 7, then no-hit them two days later, 1-0.
“Monica struggled in her last outing [a 9-7 victory over the Akron Racers June 23], and she fixed what she needed to and gave up just one hit tonight,” Bandits co-coach Mike Steuerwald said.
“It never gets old seeing Monica and Cat [go against each other],” Steuerwald continued.
“Keith [Berg, Steuerwald’s fellow coach] and I were talking – you had 24 versus 25 batters, 115 to 119 pitches. It is fun as a coach knowing you have to work hard to push across one or two runs to win.”
For her part, Abbott tried to downplay the rivalry between her and Osterman, who was her Team USA teammate during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
“I feel like a lot of people try to build that up,” she said. “But she is three years older. We never played against each other in college. And my family didn’t have a lot of financial means, so we didn’t have cable and I didn’t get to watch her much on TV.”
Abbott would much rather talk about the chemistry that is brewing on this year’s Bandits team.
“Right now I’m having a great time with this team,” Abbott said. “We have a light, enjoyment-type of feeling on the field and in the dugout. We pick each other up. We eat together after the game and know we are all here to build this league.”
Patton feels that this year’s coaching staff has a lot to do with setting that tone.
“They have a lot of knowledge of the game and give us the respect we need as pro athletes,” Patton added.
“Some coaches still have the college mentality – ‘here’s the schedule, do it this way’ – but [Steuerwald and Berg] give us feedback and approach us individually rather than beat something down our throats if we mess up. Their personalities match ours really well.”
The third game of the four-game weekend series in Rosemont begins Saturday at 7:35 p.m. Central time. The Pride (8-6) will be trying to cut into Chicago’s three-game NPF lead in their next-to-last appearance at The Ballpark at Rosemont this season.
The game will be streamed online at the National Pro Fastpitch home page, http://profastpitch.com.
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