AKRON, OH – If Wednesday night’s regular season finale between the Akron Racers and USSSA Pride is any indication, then next weekend’s NPF Championship Series Semifinal between the two teams should be a thrilling series. On this night, the Pride came up with the final answer in a back-and-forth game to earn the 4-3 win at Firestone Stadium.
Pride (37-13) first baseman Hallie Wilson broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the fifth inning when she sent a scorching home run over the fence in left-center field for what proved to be the game’s final and deciding run.
“It’s been a tremendous season for us as far as camaraderie and team cohesion and the fans the past week have been unbelieveable. The place has been packed. It’s just incredible to come here and see the fan support,” Racers Field Manager Brian Levin said.
In the bottom of the fifth inning the Pride inserted pitcher Jordan Taylor into the game and the closer picked up her ninth save of the season, throwing three hitless innings to finish the game.
After two scoreless innings, the Racers (22-28) got the bats going in the bottom of the third inning. Akron catcher Griffin Joiner (Kentucky) and right fielder AJ Andrews (Louisiana State) both reached to start the inning via a walk and a hit by pitch. After a pair of groundouts, rookie shortstop Sami Fagan (Missouri) sent a two out, two-run double soaring over the head of Pride left fielder Megan Wiggins, giving the Racers the 2-0 lead.
The double by Fagan gave her 62 hits on the season, which tied the Racers all-time hits record. Additionally, on the same hit Fagan broke the all-time NPF Rookie RBI mark as she knocked in RBI 38 and 39 for the season, strengthening her case for NPF Rookie of the Year at next week’s awards banquet.
"I think it’s huge to be confident as a player and I carried that into every single game," Fagan said. “That is what gave me that edge."
In the top of the fourth inning, USSSA found an answer. Wilson led off with an infield single to the left side that was followed by right fielder Kirsti Merritt reaching first base after being hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt by centerfielder Haylie McCleney advanced both runners into scoring position. Second baseman Kelsey Stewart followed with a ground ball to Akron second baseman Shellie Robinson (South Carolina-Upstate). Wilson beat the throw from Robinson to home plate for the Pride’s first run of the game.
With the score now 2-1, third baseman Courtney Ceo laid down a sacrifice squeeze bunt to bring home Merritt. Then the leadoff hitter Megan Wiggins roped a double that hit chalk on the right field line and gave the Pride the edge at 3-2 heading into the bottom half of the fourth inning.
As the second hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning, Racers designated player Jennifer Gilbert (Ball State) smashed a solo home run to deep centerfield, which knotted the score at 3-3 as the teams looked ahead toward the fifth inning.
"I was just trying to see a good pitch, as many as I could," said Gilbert. "I was able to get ahold of one and it felt really good."
The winning pitcher for the Pride was Hannah Rogers (6-2) who went 4.0 innings and allowed three runs on two hits while striking out five batters.
Racers starting pitcher Rachele Fico (LSU) went 4.2 innings and allowed four runs on five hits. Relief pitcher Hannah Perryman came in and tossed an impressive 2.1 innings, in which she allowed zero hits and recorded 1 strikeout to finish the game for the Rubber City.
“(Hannah) came in and stopped any threats,” Levin said. “That’s what her job is— to come in spot innings and keep them from scoring and that’s what she did. She did an exceptional job.”
Akron and the Pride will meet again starting Friday, August 19 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at 9:00 p.m. for the start of a best of three series for the right to advance to the NPF Championship Series final. The final two games of the series are scheduled for Saturday, August 20, with the finals beginning the next day.
“Got to win two out of three. That’s my message. It comes down to a tournament and anybody can beat anybody,” Levin said. “And we can beat anybody, we just have to play a complete game.”
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league, celebrating their 15th Season of Play in 2016. The Racers competed in the Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL) for two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and in the NPF since 2004. Historic Firestone Stadium is home to the Racers and numerous amateur events at all levels of play.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2002, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in diamond sports beyond their collegiate success. The 2016 NPF season will be televised on CBS Sports Network. Coverage includes the NPF College Draft presented by Bownet on Thur., April 14, followed by 23 regular-season games, a Championship Series Preview Special and the 2016 NPF Championship Series. The NPF recently announced that the Scrap Yard Dawgs, located in The Woodlands, Texas, will join the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Dallas Charge, Pennsylvania Rebellion and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2016 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand, representing the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.
Note to Media
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