AKRON, OH – A slow start offensively and in the pitching circle, paired with a defensive effort that resulted in four errors halted the Akron Racers two-game winning streak against the Chicago Bandits at Firestone Stadium. The Racers fell to Chicago 8-4 on Friday night in the first game of a two-game series to begin Akron’s second homestand of the season.
“I thought we came out pretty flat defensively and in the circle,” said Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan. “I’m really proud of the fight that we showed offensively, we just have to bring that same fight on the other end.”
The Racers (13-11) had nine hits with four errors – resulting in two unearned runs, while a matching nine hits from the Bandits, who didn’t commit an error defensively.
Chicago scratched out a run in the first inning to take an early lead. Bandit third baseman Natalie Hernandez hit a sharp grounder up the middle, Akron shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke was able to snag the ball, but by the time she corralled it, left fielder Brenna Moss raced home from second base to put the visitors ahead 1-0. Moss had reached on a walk previously to start the inning.
Moss and Hernandez would team up to extend Chicago’s advantage. After Moss reached on an error by Racer first baseman Nicole Schroeder and stole her second base of the game, Hernandez lined a home run over the left field wall to put the Bandits up 3-0.
“I thought Laura [Winter] has been doing a great job when we brought her in and I like her demeanor on the mound, she’s very intense,” said Morgan on the starting pitcher. “Every time we’ve brought her in, she’s done her job.”
With a pitching change to begin the fourth inning, Akron turned to Emily Weiman to replace Winter, who took her first loss of the season, allowing three runs in three innings on three hits and a walk.
Weiman walked the first batter she faced, first baseman Megan Blank. One batter later, designated player Alexa Peterson plated Blank with an RBI double. Shortstop Abby Ramirez powered through a pitch to send it up the middle and score another one for Chicago as Zymkowitz crossed the plate for the fifth run of the game. Centerfielder Sammy Marshall capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to Shellie Robinson to put the Bandits ahead 6-0.
Down by six runs, Akron finally started to get the runs rolling after a Chicago pitching change to bring Haylie Wagner into the game. Designated player Sami Fagan roped a line drive double down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. A hard hit double up the middle from Robinson scored Fagan for the first Racers run of the game. Robinson, who went two for three on the night, is now batting a .500 from Firestone Stadium. Gilbert smacked a double to the left-center fence to score Robinson and keep the Racer battle going and cut the deficit to 6-2. A wild pitch advanced Gilbert to third base, but a ground ball back to Hernandez at third allowed a tag out of the lead runner and double play was pulled with a throw to get Racers’ third baseman Kelley Montalvo out at first base.
In the top of the fifth inning the Bandits loaded the bases without getting a hit. Ramirez made Akron pay for a walk, error and hit by pitch with an infield single that scored Sahvanna Jaquish.
Despite the deficit, the Racers were not ready to lay down. A drag bunt from centerfielder A.J. Andrews kicked off the Racers’ at-bats in the bottom of the fifth. After a strong ground ball to left field by Robinson, Andrews advanced to third and put runners on the corners for Akron.
With a well-executed double steal, Robinson drew the throw at second and a speedy Andrews raced into home plate to score for the Racers. In her at-bat, Schroeder drove the ball up the middle for a single and scored Robinson from second to minimize the deficit to 7-4.
In the top of the seventh, Chicago earned their eighth and final run with a solo homer over the left-center field wall from Jaquish.
“It’s our home field,” Morgan said. “If this doesn’t hurt, then you shouldn’t be playing.”
The Racers will return to Firestone Stadium Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. as they battle for the series against the Bandits. For more information or to order tickets, contact the Racers ticket office at (330) 376- 8188.
Game Time: 2:07
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Natalie Hernandez
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.