Bandits claim season opener behind Wagner’s strong start

Photo credit: Dina Kwit, courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch

ROSEMONT — Haylie Wagner built off an impressive 2017 campaign with a dominant outing in her first start of the 2018 season. Behind five shutout innings of from the southpaw, the Bandits cruised to a 9-0 season-opening victory over the newly-formed Cleveland Comets on Thursday night at Parkway Bank Sports Complex.

Wagner (W, 1-0), who ranked second in the NPF with 11 wins in her first year as a Bandit, helped secure an early lead for Chicago with an impressive performance in the circle. The former Michigan standout surrendered just two hits and struck out six to earn win No. 1 in 2018.

Wagner’s counterpart, rookie right-hander Devin Brown (L, 0-1), struggled in her first career start. The South Alabama product was tagged for seven runs across 4.2 innings of work.

After Courtney Gano marked her NPF debut with an RBI-single to open up the scoring, Bandits first baseman Megan Blank uncorked a three-run blast to the bleachers in right field to extend the early lead to 4-0, a lead plenty large enough to back Wagner’s effort.

Blank, batting sixth in the opening-day lineup, continued her excellent play in the sixth spot. Two of her three home runs and 11 of her 17 RBI came while batting in the six-hole during the 2017 season.

Veteran third baseman Natalie Hernandez added a two-run blast to left-center in the fifth to grow the advantage to 6-0.

Bandits newcomer Nadia Taylor collected a pair of RBI in her Chicago debut, one of three on the night for the team. Jessie Scroggins, the 15th overall selection in the 2018 draft, also delivered a single in her first professional at-bat.

Third-year right-hander Shelby Turnier and fourth-year right-hander Lacey Waldrop combined to close out the win, allowing just one batter to reach base.

The Bandits and Comets will be back in action for Game 2 of their four-game series at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Parkway Bank Sports Complex.

Extra innings

— The Bandits earned their fourth consecutive win in a series opener.

— Attendance: 800

About Chicago Bandits

Since 2005, the Chicago Bandits have been members of the National Pro Fastpitch league. Entering their 14th season as a franchise, the Bandits have provided the Chicago area with high-level softball talent and entertainment en route to capturing six regular season titles and four Cowles Cup championships, the most recent coming during the 2016 campaign. Located in Rosemont, the Bandits play at Parkway Bank Sports Complex, one of the premier softball facilities in the nation. Parkway Bank Sports Complex is the only stadium in the country built exclusively for a women’s professional softball team. The Bandits provide an opportunity for female fastpitch softball players to further their careers at the professional level and has included legendary figures such as Jennie Finch, Tammy Williams and Stacy May-Johnson.

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