Hernandez powers Bandits to season-opening sweep

ROSEMONT — Natalie Hernandez launched her second home run of the series, Kristyn Sandberg added her first homer of the season, and the Chicago Bandits downed the Cleveland Comets 12-5 to sweep the four-game set Sunday afternoon at Parkway Bank Sports Complex.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead after four, Hernandez’s three-run blast in the fifth ignited a six-run frame for the Bandits. Sandberg made it back-to-back home runs with a towering shot to left, and an RBI double off the bat of draftee Jessie Scroggins soon put the game out of reach.

Hernandez, who hit three home runs during the 2017 campaign, finished the game with four RBI and continued her torrid stretch of play at the plate to open up the 2018 season. The veteran third baseman concluded the four-game series with a team-high seven hits and 15 total bases.

The former Illinois-Chicago standout’s effort helped lead Bandits newcomer Ally Carda to her first win as a Bandit in her debut in the circle. Carda scattered three hits across four innings and surrendered just two runs. Carda also managed to help herself out at the plate, delivering a pair of hits, including an RBI single in the fourth.

Veteran right-hander Lacey Waldrop appeared in relief for the fourth consecutive game and pitched effectively to seal the win. Waldrop surrendered one run, a solo shot by Alexa Peterson, in 1.2 innings of work.

Coley Ries also pitched in relief of Carda, allowing one run in 1.1 innings.

Devin Brown (L, 0-2) suffered the loss for Cleveland. The rookie right-hander allowed three runs (all earned) across four innings in her second career start.

The Bandits will hit the road for the first time in the 2018 season with a five-game series against the Aussie Spirit in split locations. First pitch in the opener is set for 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Hobart-Detter Field in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the game will be broadcast via ELEVEN SPORTS. The Bandits and Spirit will also meet up in Wichita, Kansas, and Lawrence, Kansas, during the series.

EXTRA INNINGS

— Attendance: 754

— Vaultz Lock It Up! Player of the Game: Natalie Hernandez (3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI)

— The Bandits are 4-0 to start a season for the first time since 2015.

— Four or more Bandits finished with multi-hit efforts for the third consecutive game.

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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