Guest manager Jennie Finch leads Bridgeport Bluefish to win
Jennie Finch is 1-0.
Finch, the USA softball star, became the first woman to manage a professional baseball team on Sunday by serving as guest manager for the Atlantic League's Bridgeport Bluefish.
And she's also among the winningest coaches in franchise history.
Her aggressive baserunning strategies helped lead the Bluefish to a 3-1 win over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
A national champion and Olympic gold medalist in softball, Finch was the third guest manager of the Bluefish, joining Pete Rose and Paul O'Neill. Both Rose and O'Neill won their managing debuts, and Finch joined them. (Roger Clemens will guest-manage the team later this season.)
With the game tied at 1 in the sixth inning, Finch had Anthony Giansanti running on a full count. Doing so helped the Bluefish avoid an inning-ending double play on a grounder to first and allowed him to reach second base. The next batter, Luis Nunez, drove in Giansanti with an RBI single to right-center field to break a 1-1 tie.
She then had Nunez steal second base on an 0-2 count, and he scored after Southern Maryland's Zach Wilson misplayed a chopper that bounced into right field to give Bridgeport a 3-1 lead.
But with the Blue Crabs threatening in the top of the eighth inning, Finch, a renowned pitcher herself, trusted reliever Taylor Thompson to pitch out of a jam. With two on and no out, Thompson induced a 5-4-3 double play. After a walk put runners on the corners, Finch left Thompson in, and he got Kuan-Jen Chen to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
She had faith in Eric Niesen in the ninth inning in a two-on, one-out jam, sticking with him as he got the final batter to ground out back to the mound with the potential tying run on first base to end the game. Even pitching coach Jesse Litsch, a former Toronto Blue Jay, took the time to appreciate greatness after the game.
Finch also was plenty busy before the game. After starting her day with a swarm of media interviewing her in the dugout, Finch's pregame activities included a meet-and-greet with fans ...
... throwing out the ceremonial first pitch ...
... taking the microphone before the game to talk about what being the first woman to manage a men's baseball team means to her ...
... and receiving an honorary bat.
And her day ended in the best way possible: with a victory.