AKRON, OH – Despite a late-inning comeback attempt, the USSSA Pride (26-8) took Game 1 of the four-game series from the Akron Racers (19-19), winning a tightly contested 5-3 game.
Heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Akron found themselves down 4-1, but as has become customary for the team, the Racers battled back. Left fielder Shellie Robinson led off the inning with a single, her third hit of the night. Shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke stepped into the box with one out for Akron and promptly blasted a two-run home run to left-center field to cut the Pride advantage to 4-3.
“This is the second or third time, I think, we've seen Keilani (Ricketts),” Fischer-Cooke explained. “I think we knew that she would give us something good to hit in an at bat and we were just kind of waiting for that one, and ready to attack it.”
In the top of the seventh, however, the Pride would once again pull away a bit, as shortstop Shelby Pendley hit a solo shot to right-center field to add an insurance run, placing the score at 5-3, where it would remain after Jordan Taylor entered the circle for USSSA in the seventh, striking out two and earning her ninth save of the season.
The Pride got off to a hot start against Akron and starting pitcher Megan Betsa. Centerfielder Megan Wiggins led things off in the first inning with a single to left field, and right fielder Kelly Kretschman followed with a single of her own, moving Wiggins to third. Second baseman Sierra Romero drew a four pitch walk for the Pride, and a wild pitch on the fourth ball allowed Wiggins to come across to score the first run of the ball game. Lauren Chamberlain also drew a walk, loading the bases. Left fielder Kirsti Merritt blooped a hit into shallow right field, scoring Kretschman from third and giving the Pride the early 2-0 lead.
The Racers struck back in the bottom half of the first with a run of their own. After centerfielder A.J. Andrews was hit by a pitch to start things off, a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Ashley Thomas and a ground out from designated player Sami Fagan moved Andrews to third. With two outs, Robinson lined one to left field out of the reach of Merritt, scoring Andrews for Akron’s first run, making the score 2-1.
After the Pride loaded the bases to start the top of the second inning on a single by GiOnna DiSalvatore and back-to-back walks to third baseman Courtney Ceo and Wiggins, the Racers turned to reliever Alexis Silkwood. The left-handed rookie, battled the heart of the lineup and got out of the jam allowing only one run on a Sierra Romero single to score DiSalvatore to extend the Pride lead to 3-1.
Silkwood would complete the game, battling the Pride hitters and holding the visitors to two runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out three batters in six innings of work.
“(Silkwood) came out tonight with that fire in her eyes that she has and kept us in it,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “To go the stretch for us and to not have to bring another pitcher in when we have three more games, that was huge for her and for us. I just have so much respect for her and her resiliency. She's a bulldog and she shows it every day.”
Megan Wiggins stayed hot to start off the fourth inning, slamming a homer to left field, putting the Pride ahead 4-1. Wiggins ended up 2-for-3 on the day, with a walk, home run, and two runs scored. For her outstanding performance at the plate, Wiggins was named the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game.
Keilani Ricketts picked up the win for the Pride, pushing her record to 8-3 on the year. Ricketts pitched six innings and struck out eight Akron batters in the victory, and Betsa was credited with the loss.
The Racers and Pride will meet in Game 2 of the series Wednesday night at Firestone Stadium with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Following the game, Akron and Taylor will combine for a “So You Think You Can Hit” charity event. For a $25 donation fans will get five pitches to try and get a hit off an NPF pitcher. Proceeds for the event will go to the Akron Children’s Hospital Palliative Care Center. For more information visit www.akronracers.org/so-you-think-you-can-hit and to purchase tickets call the Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 2:08
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Megan Wiggins
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.