MARION – File this under the category of nice bounce back for the Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois.
After enduring an 8-0, run-rule loss in the opener of their NPF doubleheader Thursday against the Chicago Bandits, the Wild responded with an 8-2 victory in the nightcap at Rent One Park.
“We went in the locker room and just checked our mind-set,” said shortstop Shianne Brannan. “We were down and out in the first game, but we had to flush it and come back strong. There was not much time to dwell on it.”
Sara Groenewegen pitched four solid innings to earn the win, while a pair of four-run innings enabled the Wild (13-4) to maintain their one-game lead on Chicago (6-3) in NPF.
Abbey Cheek reached Groenewegen for an opposite-field homer to right in the top of the second to initiate scoring. But the Wild wasted little time wiping out that deficit in their half of the inning, working over Rachele Fico and Kelly Barnhill for 47 pitches and four runs.
Catcher Natalie Wideman taxed Fico for 12 pitches before slashing a game-tying RBI single. Victoria Hayward slapped a run-scoring single up the middle to chase Fico, and Kelsey Jenkins welcomed Barnhill to the circle with a two-run ground-rule double to left-center.
The Bandits pulled within 4-2 in the fourth when Amanda Chidester bombed a homer to left that one-hopped the left field wall some 320 feet away. But Groenewegen (2-0) and reliever Jenna Caira set down 12 of the final 15 hitters. Caira worked three scoreless innings to garner the save.
The Wild made it a runaway in the fifth with another four-run outburst. Larissa Franklin’s infield single chased home Erika Polidori from third, followed by a line-drive three-run homer to left by Brannan.
“It felt good off the bat,” Brannan said. “It was nice to help the team get some cushion on the board.”
Polidori drew three walks in four plate appearances, the first two coming on the 14th and 11th pitches of the sequences, respectively. Wideman wasn’t far behind her on the patience meter. She grinded out an eight-pitch at-bat in the third before going down looking.
“I’ll bet she saw 30 pitches in those three walks,” said Wild coach Mark Smith. “And Natalie’s the type of hitter that will foul one back, foul another back … and then the pitcher has to throw a strike. And she’s a skilled enough hitter that if you throw a strike, she can hit it pretty well.
“It was nice to stack some hits together and see some people cross the plate.”
The Wild outhit Chicago 10-4, getting a pair of hits each from Franklin, Jenkins and Jen Salling. Jenkins nearly bagged a third hit in the fourth, but her well-struck ball to deep center was hauled in by Brenna Moss about a step shy of the fence.
Nothing went right for the Wild in the opener after Danielle Lawrie worked a 1-2-3 first inning. Chicago took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Emily Crane bombed a long two-run homer to right, then kayoed Lawrie in the third with a four-spot.
Lawrie did some of the damage to herself, taking a possible 1-6-3 double play ball off Hannah Flippen’s bat and bouncing it into center field. That led to Chidester’s RBI single, a run-scoring double off the left field fence by Kristyn Sandberg and a two-run double by Gwen Svekis.
“Danielle wasn’t too sharp tonight and we weren’t too sharp with the bats, either,” Smith said. “You have to give credit to the Bandits because they’re a good-hitting team. They can hit the ball out of the ballpark pretty much 1 through 8 or 9.”
Lawrie was tagged with six runs off five hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings, fanning two. Morgan Rackel relieved her and coughed up a towering two-run blast to pinch-hitter Nadia Taylor in the top of the fourth that capped the scoring.
The Wild managed just three hits off starter Haylie Wagner and reliever Danielle O’Toole. Joey Lye collected two off Wagner and Franklin managed a single off O’Toole to start the fifth. It was the first time the Wild have been blanked.
The teams will play another doubleheader Friday at 6:35 p.m. before closing the series at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night. That will be the Wild’s final home game until July 23.