AKRON, OH – On an evening where pitchers for the Akron Racers and Texas Charge both were in control for most of the doubleheader, clutch hits and making plays when they mattered most were critical. Saturday night it was the Racers (11-9) making more of those plays in sweeping the double header, winning 3-1 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game at Firestone Stadium.
"I think they came out and they were actually the Racers today,” Akron Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “The dugout was hype, and it starts with that. I thought they played really good defense, and we got enough hits to get us through."
In the first game, Akron turned to pitcher Sara Groenewegen, and the rookie from Minnesota was spectacular to pick up the first win of her professional career.
Through the first six innings of the game Groenewegen was tossing a one-hit shutout against the Charge (9-11) and took a 3-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning. Texas cracked the scoreboard when designated player Lauren Haeger led off the inning with a solo home run over the left field fence to make the score 3-1, but Groenewegen quickly shut down the Charge in order after the home run. With two hits allowed and six total strikeouts, Groenewegen was named the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game.
“I’ve come back from a couple rough starts,” Groenewegen said. “So, I think just finally having a good start it’s going to boost my confidence and give me some momentum going into the season.”
Although it was a dominating start to the game for both Groenewegen and Charge pitcher Ally Carda, it was not long before the Racers’ offense put them on top. In the bottom of the second inning, Akron right fielder Shellie Robinson broke the scoreless tie when she smashed a towering home run over the right-center field wall for her NPF-leading fifth home run giving Akron a 1-0 lead. Her fifth home run also set a new season-high in her professional career for the third-year professional.
"Shellie came up with that home run and it really just says, 'hey, we can hit her,'” Morgan said. “I think our at bats got better that first game."
The Racer bats came through once again in the bottom of the sixth inning to add what turned out to be two important insurance runs. After second baseman Ashley Thomas bunted for an infield single to start the inning, Akron shortstop Sami Fagan doubled Thomas home to put the Racers ahead 2-0 at the time. Two batters later first baseman Nicole Schroeder kept the Akron bats hot and drove in Fagan for the Racers final run of the game.
Carda took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings of work, while striking out nine hitters.
With the second game starting similar to that of the first, a powerful presence from the pitcher’s circle from Akron’s Jailyn Ford and the Charge’s Dallas Escobedo challenged each offense throughout the game.
Both Ford and Escobedo were carrying shutouts until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Thomas gave the Racers their first hit, blasting a solo home run over the right field fence to put Akron ahead 1-0.
“Our energy is so good right now and we are playing like the Racers do. Everyone is up in the dugout, everyone is doing their job, knowing their role and it’s just we’re having fun,” Thomas said. “We want to be here and we want to play, so I think we’re going to come out the same tomorrow.”
In response to the Akron run, the Charge offense challenged the Racers in the top of the fifth inning. Texas catcher Haley Outon lined a base hit to left field that advance Breja’e Washington to second base. Washington raced to third base on a fly out by Koral Costa to put runners on the corners with two outs. Pinch hitter Missy Taukeiaho launched a line drive into the centerfield gap, but Akron centerfielder A.J. Andrews made the type of play that earned her the first ever Rawlings Gold Glove awarded to a woman in 2016, by diving to snag the ball just off the ground to end the inning and keep the Racers ahead 1-0.
Ford ended her day after the fifth inning, earning her third win of the season, allowing two hits and striking out one batter in five shutout innings. The Racers turned to Alexis Silkwood in the circle to close the game. Sillkwood allowed no hits, two strikeouts and a walk in two innings to earn her third save of the season.
Escobedo took the tough luck loss, giving up one run on one hit and striking out eight hitters.
The Racers and Charge will face each other in the final game of their series and the final game of the homestand Sunday at 4:05 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Akron Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 1:42
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Sara Groenewegen
Game Time: 1:23
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: A.J. Andrews
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers will celebrate their 16th season of play in 2017. 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 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Texas Charge and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2017 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.