AKRON, OH – The Akron Racers completed their season series against the first place USSSA Pride Thursday night, being swept in a day-night doubleheader at Firestone Stadium. The Pride came from behind in the seventh inning to take the first game 3-1 and then used an impressive power display to win the second game 13-4.
The Racers were on the verge of victory in Game 1 of the doubleheader, with a one-run lead with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Down in a 2-2 count, Pride outfielder Kirsti Merritt got just enough of a pitch from Akron’s Aimee Creger and sent it over the wall in right field to tie the game. The Pride added two more runs in the inning and took a 3-1 victory.
After Merritt’s home run, Kelly Kretschman doubled home Mandie Perez to give the Pride the 2-1 lead and centerfielder Megan Wiggins plated Kretschman with a line drive single up the middle to add the insurance run.
Hannah Rogers, who came in and recorded the final out of the sixth inning in relief of Henderson, earned the win for the Pride. Jordan Taylor picked up two strikeouts in the seventh inning, on her way to her league-leading 10th save of the season. Creger is credited with her first loss of the season for Akron.
To begin the game, Racers starter Rachele Fico and Pride starter Jolene Henderson were locked in a pitcher’s duel. After giving up back-to-back singles in the first inning by second baseman Ashley Thomas and designated player Sami Fagan, Henderson did not allow another hit in the first three innings. Fico did not allow more than one base runner in any of the first five innings she pitched, racking up three 1-2-3 innings in the circle.
Fico threw five shutout innings in the game, scattering four hits, no walks and striking out three batters. Henderson allowed one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings pitched. Both starters received no decisions.
After Fico set down the Pride in the top of the fourth, Akron came to the plate in the bottom half of the inning with first baseman Nicole Schroeder leading things off. Schroeder rocketed a pitch way over the left field wall for a solo home run, putting the Racers on the board and giving Akron the 1-0 lead.
“"It felt really nice,” Schroeder said. “I've been working extra with Coach Charlotte [Morgan] and we just worked on some things and it finally worked."
The Pride threatened early in the sixth inning, getting their first two batters aboard via single. Morgan decided to make a pitching change, bringing in Creger to face the heart of the USSSA order. Creger quickly got the Racers out of the jam with no damage, getting two batters to pop out in the infield, and striking out Pride designated player Lauren Chamberlain to end the inning.
“I think both pitchers threw well today,” Morgan explained. “I thought Fico was moving the ball well, and Creger did a good job closing in, but [the Pride] are a good offensive team, so we just have to be able to answer and not be content with one run."
In Game 2 of the doubleheader, the Pride bats blasted six home runs, including a pair of home runs from both second baseman Sierra Romero and shortstop Shelby Pendley, who had three and two RBI, respectively.
After Wiggins scored on a wild pitch in the first inning to make the score 1-0 in favor of the Pride, the visitors broke the game open in the top of the second inning. An RBI double from Kelly Kretschman and Romero’s first home run of the game, a two-run blast to right field, punctuated a five-run inning that gave the Pride a 5-0 lead.
The bright spots for Akron in the second game came from a pair of players who hit their first professional home runs on the night. In the bottom of the third inning, catcher Griffin Joiner smashed a pitch from former battery-mate at the University of Kentucky, Kelsey Nunley, over the left field fence, scoring Jennifer Gilbert to cut Akron’s deficit to 7-2. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Racer rookie Haley Fagan crushed the first pitch she saw to left field for a solo home run, cutting the Pride lead to 12-3 at that point in the game.
The Pride picked up another big inning in the top of the fourth frame. Kretschman, Romero and Pendley each hit home runs accounting for four runs in the inning. Kretschman’s shot also scored Megan Wiggins. Chelsea Goodacre hit the Pride’s final home run in the fifth inning, a solo shot.
The Racers scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Kristen Wyckoff lined a ball into the right field corner, scoring Maddy Grimm, A.J. Andrews was thrown out at home on the play to end the game.
Akron will stay at home, meeting the Canadian National Team for a game on Monday night at 7:05 p.m. and a doubleheader on Tuesday night beginning at 5:35 p.m. All three games are exhibition games that won’t count in the NPF standings. The Racers resume NPF competition when they host the Beijing Shougang Eagles in a three-game series next Thursday through Saturday nights. For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Akron Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188.
The Pride will host the Texas Charge in a two-game series next Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Game Time: 2:00
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Kirsti Merritt
Game Time: 2:14
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Sierra Romero
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.