Jeff Brewer

Game 1: ?Bandits 6, Racers 5

Hoping to make a big splash on ESPN2, the Akron Racers were done in by two National Pro Fastpitch veterans.

In the first game of a day-night doubleheader Saturday at Firestone Stadium, second baseman Vicky Galindo and ace pitcher Monica Abbott lifted the Chicago Bandits to a 6-5 win.

Galindo, playing her ninth NPF season at age 29, belted two home runs, while the 6-foot-3 Abbott shut down the Racers over the final three innings to earn the save.

“They’ve been on the biggest stages in softball and to them I don’t think any softball game fazes them,” Chicago manager Mike Steuerwald said. “They enjoy that stage and the little bit of pressure that comes with it.”

Galindo had hit only one home run in her NPF career before Saturday, but her two-run blast in the top of the fourth inning gave the Bandits the lead for good at 6-4.

“To be honest, [Akron starter] Ivy [Renfroe] throws so hard and it supplied a lot of power for me,” said Galindo, a former six-year member of the U.S. National Team.

Then when the Racers loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth frame, Abbott came out of the bullpen and yielded a sacrifice fly to Racers’ catcher Kaylyn Castillo to make it 6-5 and then struck out six of the next 11 batters she faced.

Third baseman Kelley Montalvo, center fielder Taylor Schlopy and Castillo managed singles against Abbott, but the Racers could not push home the tying run.

“That’s my job. That’s what I’m here to do,” said Abbott, also a longtime member of the U.S. team. “We live for these big games.”

Back-to-back solo homers by Galindo and Megan Wiggins gave the Bandits (11-3) a 2-0 lead midway through the third inning.

The Racers (6-8) were given an extra out in the home half of the inning and cashed in four runs. With two outs, speedy left fielder Brianna Turang slapped a single over third base. Schlopy grounded to short, but a throwing error enabled her to reach second, with Turang moving to third.

Turang scored on a wild pitch. Charlotte Morgan and Castillo walked to load the bases and last year’s NPF Offensive Player of the Year Sam Marder stroked a 3-2 pitch to center for a two-run single, plating Schlopy and Morgan. Right fielder Brianna Hesson followed with an RBI single to right bringing home Castillo. All four runs against Chicago starter Andi Williamson (3-0) were unearned.

“[Abbott and Galindo] are the kind of players that we looked up to when we were younger,” said Turang, who singled twice, scored twice, and walked in four plate appearances. “It’s kind of a shock at first, I think for us, because the people we’ve looked up to we’re now playing against.”

Chicago answered Akron’s four-run third with four runs in the top of fourth, highlighted by Galindo’s second home run.

Game 2: ?Bandits 8, Racers 0

Sporting her own custom-designed eye black, Abbott bested Racers ace Lisa Norris in Saturday’s nightcap.

Bandits’ designated player Nerissa Myers slammed a two-out, two-run homer to center in the top of the third and that was all Abbott (5-1) needed in yielding just three singles and lowering her ERA to 0.18. The left-hander’s complete-game line included 13 strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter.

The Bandits (12-3) added plenty of insurance in the sixth when Galindo doubled and scored on Kimi Pohlman’s RBI single. Former Racer Kristen Butler drove home Pohlman with a titanic home run to make it 5-0. An error-aided run and Kazuki Watanabe’s two-run single in the seventh closed out the scoring.

Norris (3-2) came into the game having not allowed an earned run in 21? innings. Right fielder Jessica Garcia had two hits for Akron (6-9).