After 24 games in 22 days, the Aussie Spirit players and coaches now have a chance to catch their breath and make plans for the rest of their debut season in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
The all-powerful Chicago Bandits have just completed a six-game sweep of the Spirit, maintaining their unbeaten record in the 2018 NPF season.
It has been a steep learning curve for the Spirit, who started the season with a 6-6 record against the Beijing Eagles but have found the task much tougher against the USSSA Pride and the Bandits.
After a hectic early-season schedule, the Spirit now have a few days off before travelling to Chicago for a three-game season against the Bandits.
Game 20: Chicago Bandits 12, Aussie Spirit 0
The Chicago Bandits unloaded for 16 hits, inluding four home runs, in a dominant performance at
the Wilkins Softball Complex in Wichita, Kansas.
Aussie Spirit starting pitcher Monica Perry kept the Bandits relatively quiet in the first two innings, restricting them to two runs.
But the Bandits turned on the power after that, scoring four runs in the third inning to blow the game open.
Clare Warwick was the best of the Spirit batters, with two hits and a walk. Verity Long-Droppert and Chelsea Robinson also had base hits.
Game 21: Chicago Bandits 5, Aussie Spirit 1
Stacey Webber’s home run highlighted an improved performance by the Aussie Spirit, but there was not much offence other than that as the Bandits continued their winning run.
Strong pitching by Spirit starter Katie Donovan and reliever Stephanie Trzcinksi kept the Bandits within striking distance.
But the Spirit offence could not string hits together. Other than Webber’s solo shot in the second inning, the Aussies had only three base hits. Michelle Cox, Shannon Keevers and Taylah Tsitsikronis all had singles.
Game 22: Chicago Bandits 7, Aussie Spirit 4
Moving on to the Arrocha Ballpark at the University of Kansas, the Aussie Spirit were competitive from start to finish, leading twice in the early innings.
Spirit starter Jordan Taylor, a recent addition to the team who has been playing in Japan, kept the Bandits off the board in the first inning. The Spirit then took the early lead with a triple by Shannon Keevers and an RBI ground-out by Taylah Tsitsikronis.
An inning later, Clare Warwick doubled, was sacrificed to third by Rachel Lack and scored on a single by Belinda White.
Although the Bandits had taken the lead, the Aussies reclaimed it in the third inning on base hits by Stacey McManus, Tsitsikronis and Verity Long-Droppert.
But the 4-3 lead did not last long as the Bandits scored in the next three innings, largely due to a big game by Courtney Gano, who had three hits and drove in four runs.
Spirit relief pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart had an impressive outing, pitching two innings without allowing a run.
Game 23: Chicago Bandits 11, Aussie Spirit 3
This was a tight contest in the early innings, before the Bandits blew it open with five runs in the sixth.
In a vastly improved offensive output, the Spirit racked up 11 base hits.
Outfielder Michelle Cox led the way with three hits. Stacey McManus and Verity Long-Droppert each had two. Other players to hit safely were Tabitha Callander, Chelsea Robinson, Jessica Torpey and Stacey Webber.
The Bandits had 19 hits, including four home runs. Outfielder Brenna Moss led the way with four hits, including a double.
Game 24: Chicago Bandits 10, Aussie Spirit 0
Dominant pitching by Bandits Ally Carda and Lacey Waldrop in the second game of a double-header snuffed out any chance of the Aussie Spirit salvaging a win in the final game of the “home” series.
The Bandits racked up 10 hits, including three home runs. Infielder Emily Carsone, who has been one of the standout hitters in the NPF so far, had two home runs and raised her batting average to .478.
For the Spirit, only Michelle Cox (double), Shannon Keevers and Jessica Torpey hit safely.
Jordan Taylor, Katie Donovan and Monica Perry shared the pitching duties.