Women Win Battle of the Sexes II

From The Daily Herald, Chicago, IL

Bandits win “Battle of the Sexes II”
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald
StaffContact writer

The Bandits’ Nicole Tromboli greets the Flyers players before the game Monday at Alexian Field in Schaumburg. MARK WELSH | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Girl power was in full force Monday night at Schaumburg’s Alexian Field.

Long after the Northern League Flyers had finished signing autographs, uniform-clad girls excitedly tossed bright yellow balls over the dugout of the National Pro-Fastpitch Bandits to their heroes.

“I want to be Jenny Finch!” 11-year-old Melissa Goldberg of Lake Zurich rattled excitedly, clutching a freshly signed ball inside her mitt.

“Yeah! Me too!” her 9-year-old sister, Rachel, seconded.

Around the stadium, dozens of park district and travel softball teams could be spotted in their respective jerseys watching the women take on the men in the “Battle of the Sexes II,” the local sequel to the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

Attendance was so heavy that the original 7:05 p.m. game time was pushed back by 30 minutes.

The record-breaking crowd of 8,918 smashed the Flyers’ season average of 4,200.

“We thought it was the perfect end-of-season party,” said Steve Burns, coach of the 8- and 9-year-old Bartlett Park District Sidewinders, who had the chance to take the field with the Bandits during the national anthem.

The match grew out of a rivalry between Bandits President Bill Sokolis and his Flyers counterpart, Rich Ehrenreich, fueled by trash talking between the sexes.

But unlike the ’70s grudge match between the publicly sexist Riggs and grand slam titleholder King, women arguably had the upper hand. Or the underhand, to be more precise.

The “Battle” was played by National Fastpitch rules, including underhand pitching at roughly 65 miles per hour.

Bandits pitcher Eileen Canney, with a 9-1 season record, struck out three straight in the second inning: right fielder Victor Ferrante, left fielder Jeff Dunbar and designated hitter Richard Mercado.

As ringers, the Flyers brought in Australian softball pitcher Andrew Blackshaw and Amateur Softball Association Men’s Major Fastpitch pitchers Brian Tobin and Jason Iuli. Blackshaw plays for his country’s Queensland team and was recently named a member of the 2009 Australian national team.

The game remained scoreless until the third inning when Flyers’ third baseman Tony Mansolino hit a double to drive in two runs. The Bandits scored their first run in the fourth after Blackshaw, seemingly rattled, hit first baseman Samantha Findlay in the helmet with the bases loaded, minutes after he had pegged short stop Tammy Williams.

In the fifth, center fielder Rachel Folden hit a single down the right field line to drive in two runs. An unearned run on a pitcher’s error brought the score to 4-2, where it remained at game’s end.

Maybe the game proved right 8-year-old Katrina Smith of Bartlett’s theory that “girls rule and boys drool.”

The outcome, however, wasn’t the point of the evening for many fans.

“My son plays baseball, my daughter plays softball,” Dan Murin of Island Lake said. “Everybody’s into this.”

Editor’s note: Andrew Blackshaw the new Bobby Riggs? I’m not sure which amazes me more – the size of the crowd or that the men got beat. But they did. Here’s one to ponder: Is men’s fastpitch missing the boat by not involving women’s teams in or at our events?

Comments posted with the story below the jump.

pn :: Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:34 AM0
I hope they have another one of these events this year and repeat it in future years, too.
There was a huge crowd there – it took me an 30 minutes longer than usual to get to the Schaumburg train station where my husband was waiting for me. Fortunately, he walked to meet me near the westbound park entrance and we were able to make a u-turn, thanks to one of the crowd control officers, or it would have been a full hour round trip.

rockytopp24 :: Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:44 AM0
It was a great game and it was great to see such a huge crowd. I was disappointed though that the star pitcher for the Bandits, Jenny Finch, wasn’t there. I think a lot of people were hoping to see her on the mound and it was a downer that she wasn’t even in the dug out. Oh well, great game anyway. Go Bandits.

lld :: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:01 AM0
was a great evening…once again proving that, as the girl in the story said’ “girls rule, boys drool!” the boys were definitely left with their hands in their mitts at the end of the game…
where was jenny finch? since she was billed as the star pitcher, it was rather disappointing that she was a no show and no comment was made as to why…
also, was this for charity? i think this should become an annual event and raise money for local charities instead of just a money maker for each team…
otherwise a fun night all around!

Michal :: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:29 AM0
WOW!!! What a night! People from everywhere joined in to see both baseball and softball! I think the men should have pitched basebal-style and the women should have pitched fastpitch….but what a terrifically fun evening..except getting INTO the parking lot and stadium though will-call!! The crowd overwhelmed the powers that be! GREAT JOB!! do it again!!! Now, go watch the Bandits win the National Championship…AGAIN!

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