CHICAGO—Big innings led the Chicago Bandits to a 9-0 win over the visiting Cleveland Comets at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in the National Pro Fastpitch season opener for both teams on Thursday.

The Bandits scored four runs in the first inning, three in the fifth and two more in the sixth to pull away from the Comets. Haylie Wagner limited the Comets to just two hits and she struck out six in five innings. Shelby Turnier and Lacey Waldrop finished off the shutout for the Bandits.

“I think today was a lot of nerves,” said Cleveland coach Charlotte Morgan. “Overall, our pitch selection wasn’t too bad. It’s just getting those nerves out. A lot of our players have never played at this level or faced this kind of pitching. It’s getting them to understand it and see it. The more they see it, the better they’ll get.”

Shellie Robinson opened the game with a single, the first hit in Comets history, but was stranded at second base. Cleveland would collect just one hit the rest of the game.

Chicago used an RBI single from Courtney Gano and a three-run homer from Megan Blank in the bottom of the first to take a 4-0 lead.

Natalie Hernandez hit a two-run home run in the fifth to chase Comets starter Devin Brown from the game. Brown allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in her professional debut.

“Devin gave up way too many free passes,” Morgan said. “She’s going to learn at this level, at any level, you can’t afford that, especially here. I think she got herself into trouble. We’ll keep working with her on getting ahead of batters and she’ll be fine.”

Brown, who left the University of South Alabama as the career leader in strikeouts (934) and shutouts (32), struggled with her consistency, especially early in the game as the battled the nerves of pitching in the National Pro Fastpitch league.

She walked five and struck out three.

“I’m glad that I kind of got the jitters over with,” Brown said. “It wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go but I feel that I gave away a lot of things tonight and if I can keep from doing that I’ll be in pretty good shape. I was getting into a situation where I was trying to place a lot of things. That caused me to be pretty tight tonight and I was missing a lot of spots. I know I’m a lot better than that. I just need to be confident and loose and go out there and pitch my game.”

Wang Yan pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Comets. She allowed two runs.

Despite the loss, the Comets had their moments, especially on defense.

Yuan Huaining tracked down two well-hit balls in left field, Chloe Miller turned in a strong performance at third base, right fielder Cao Yang threw out a runner at the plate, second baseman Xie Yue made a leaping catch in the hole and catcher Alexa Peterson threw out two would-be base stealers.

“I think overall our defense was pretty good,” Morgan said. “We had a couple of communication problems in not calling the ball. In the outfield, (Liu Feifei) made a great catch but got taken out by the other outfielder. There is a little bit we can clean up on defense but I was really pleased with the way they were making the plays and even our substitutions that came in did a great job and I thought we did a good job of getting baserunners and moving them around.”

The Comets and Bandits will play game two of the series at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Shellie Robinson collected the first hit in Cleveland Comets franchise history
  • Alexa Peterson threw out two baserunners
  • Devin Brown collected the first strikeout in Cleveland Comets franchise history in the bottom of the first inning