You would think that the backdrop would be the Chicago skyline. The players would be sporting red, white and Cubbie blue. Chicago Cubs Manager Lou Piniella would be getting ready for a possible sacrifice of his Cubs hat on any of the bases, but this isn’t the case.
The sold out crowd admired the cars speeding by on the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway and the plentiful amounts of towering trees behind the outfield wall instead. The ladies of the Chicago Bandits stretched in unison as they got ready to compete against the men of the Schaumburg Flyers in the “Battle of the Sexes” softball game at Alexian Field in Schaumburg on Monday evening.
The duel between the teams was supposed to start at 7:05 p.m., but it had to be postponed an extra 30 minutes because fans were still coming into the ball park.
“I’ve never in my life played in front of a crowd that big, so it was unbelievable,” said Bandits C Rachel Folden.
Sections of fans clapped and cheered as the ladies in orange and black took a 4-2 lead in the top of the fifth. The 8,918 fans in attendance, which is the largest crowd the Flyers have seen since the season started, stood up in support as Bandits RHP Brandice Balschmiter struck out Flyers LF TJ Wilson for the last out of the game and a historic Bandits victory.
“I think this event is a good indication that our league is doing some good things,” said Folden. “I think this is totally going to boost our attendance at home and I can’t speak for the other teams in the league, but this is going to do big things for our organization.”
The Flyers brought in extra help for the special occasion since the game was played by softball rules and not baseball. Australian softball pitcher Andrew Blackshaw was lights out for the Flyers and struck out 6 batters while only walking 1 during 3 complete innings of underhand fast pitching. Amateur Softball Association Men’s Major Fastpitch pitchers Brian Tobin and Jason Iuli picked up the game in relief.
Bandits starting RHP Eileen Canney did not allow a hit or a run for 2 consecutive innings while striking out 5. The Bandits were trailing by two, but C Rachel “Folden is Golden” Folden changed all that when she scorched a 2 RBI single to right field. The 2008 Nokona American Glove Rookie of the Year scored 3B Stacey May and CF Laura Harms for the 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
The successful event started with a trash-talking exchange between Flyers owner Rich Ehrenreich and Bandits owner Bill Sokolis, who also happens to be a good friend of Ehrenreich’s. According to the Flyers owner, Sokolis kept bragging that the women could outplay the men at their game, so Ehrenriech decided to take him up on the statement and the Battle of the Sexes was born.
After the intense display of gender competition, the exuberant fans piled onto the field for a chance to meet and get an autograph from their favorite Flyer or Bandit player.
The Battle of the Sexes concluded with the women taking a 1-0 lead over the men. Sounds like an opportunity for a best out three for the next couple of seasons, doesn’t it?
“I think it would be awesome if this was an annual event,” said Canney.“The ticket sales are unbelievable and we have so many of the Bandits fans coming from all over the Chicago area, so I think it would be fun to do it every year.”