By Paul Adkins
It’s been a big season for Andi Williamson and the Chicago Bandits.
Saturday evening found the Bandits just one win away from capturing the National Professional Fastpitch league championship in their best-of-three series with the USSSA Pride, a team based in the Orlando, Fla., area.
Chicago (37-12), the regular season champs, beat the Pride 3-2 on Friday night in Game 1 to advance to Saturday’s decisive second game, which was slated to be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
Williamson, a 2009 Chapmanville Regional High School graduate, Harts native and former Marshall University pitcher, was expected to take to the pitcher’s circle on Saturday as the Bandits’ No. 2 hurler.
Williamson has had an outstanding season and has exceeded all expectations as she was named just a few days ago as the NPF Rookie of the Year. She was also the NPF’s Pitcher of the Week as Chicago clinched the No. 1 seed for the post-season tourney and the regular season championship.
Williamson is 9-2 on the hill and is third in the league with a 1.67 ERA, trailing only teammate and softball legend Monica Abbott (0.93 ERA) and the Pride’s Cat Osterman (1.06 ERA). Williamson made a smooth transition to the professional game this summer as she pitched 75.1 innings and allowed just 18 earned runs while striking out 50 and walking 35. She started 13 games and had eight complete games, including two shutouts.
Abbott, a former United States Olympic softball player, pitched the Bandits to Friday night’s win over the Pride in a game played before more than 2,000 fans at Chicago’s home, the Ballpark at Rosemont, in suburban Rosemont, Ill.
The first game of the championship series certainly did not disappoint as the Bandits scored two runs late in the seventh inning to come back from a 2-1 deficit.
Tammy Williams started the rally by drawing a leadoff walk. A throwing error allowed Amber Patton to reach and Williams to score. The ball then got away at the play at the plate, which allowed Patton to score the game-winning run as the Bandits took Game 1, 3-2.
Abbott upped her record on the season to 18-4. Keilani Ricketts (2-3) was tagged with the loss for the Pride. Abbott has 189 strikeouts and just 17 issued walks over 128.2 innings this season for Chicago.
Osterman was projected to take to the hill for the Pride on Saturday. She is 17-4 with a league-leading 234 strikeouts over 139.1 innings.
The NPF championship series began on Thursday night at Rosemont as the No. 3-seeded Akron Racers won 4-2 over the New York/New Jersey Comets, which closed out the season at 10-39.
The Pride then advanced to the three-game championship series with Chicago after dispatching the Racers 2-1 on Friday night. Akron finished with a 17-33 record.
Williamson was coming off Marshall University’s historic 2013 season in which the Herd won the Conference USA title and moved on to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Herd were 1-2 in the NCAAs as Williamson led Marshall to a victory over Notre Dame. Williamson was 33-18 on the hill for Marshall with a 1.93 ERA and a school-record 364 strikeouts in 322.2 innings pitched.
At the conclusion of the NPF Championship Series, Williamson said he plans on returning to Marshall this fall to finish her degree. She will then, presumably, be back with the Chicago Bandits for the 2014 softball season.
Bandits fall in finals
Andi Williamson and the Chicago Bandits dropped a pair of games on Saturday night in the NPF Championship Series as the USSSA Florida Pride rallied to claim the league title two games to one on Chicago’s home field, the Ballpark at Rosemont in Rosemont, Ill.
The Pride had fallen to Chicago in the first game of the series on Friday night.
The Pride topped Williamson and the Bandits 5-0 in the opener on Saturday before an ESPN2 audience and then came back to knock off Chicago 2-1 in the decisive winner-take-all Game 3 in the nightcap.
Williamson pitched the first game on Saturday, hurling all six innings and allowing five runs on six hits with five strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter. She closed out at 9-3 on the season.
Cat Osterman was the starter and winner for the Pride as she pitched a complete-game, seven-inning shuout. She allowed four hits, while fanning five, walking three and hitting one batter. Monica Abbott took the loss within the circle for Chicago.
Osterman pitched in relief of starter Keilani Ricketts in Saturday night’s second game, coming on in the bottom of the fifth inning and getting out of a bases loaded jam. She then blanked Chicago in the sixth and seventh innings to earn the save.
The Pride went on top 1-0 in the nightcap with back-to-back doubles in the top of the second inning.
Then in the top of the fourth, Kristyn Sandberg ripped a solo homer to make it 2-0.
The Bandits cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth with Alisa Goler’s RBI single. It would prove to be the only run of the night for the Bandits in 14 innings.
Chicago was outhit 7-4 in Game 3 and finished the season with a 37-14 mark.
In the first game on Saturday night, Williamson pitched three scoreless innings before the Pride dented the scoreboard in the fourth with Andrea Duran’s two-run homer to left field.
The Pride then tagged Williamson for three runs in the sixth inning. Sandberg and Ricketts had RBI singles during the frame. Chicago was outhit 6-4.