AKRON, OH – With the Akron Racers playing as the visitors at Firestone Stadium, due to the fact the Beijing Shougang Eagles do not have a home field, it didn’t seem to have anegative effect on the Racers, who jumped out of the gates quickly and stormed to a 13-0 win over the Eagles in the first game of the three-game series on Thursday night. Akron pounded out 16 hits, including four home runs, and starting pitcher Rachele Fico carried a no-hitter through six innings, proving too much for Beijing.
Fico came out with a fire in her eyes, throwing a complete game and allowing only two hits in the seventh inning with 10 total strikeouts. Her domination on defense earned Fico the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game.
"It felt good. We were mixing all pitches and trying to stay sharp. We were just trying to get our defense in the dugout quickly so they could focus on offense,” Fico said. “It was a good game. The defense worked a bit, and we made effective pitches when we needed to."
It was Fico’s second consecutive complete game shutout over the Eagles.
"All of her pitches were moving really well. She was just doing a good job of hitting her spots and attacking the hitters,” catcher Griffin Joiner said of Fico. “She was able to put it exactly where she wanted to get swings and misses or ground ball outs."
Akron’s offense gave Fico plenty of run support, scoring in each of the first four innings. With an error on third baseman Wang Bei on a lead-off bunt from leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews, Akron earned a base runner from the start of the top of the first inning. After second baseman Ashley Thomas sacrificed Andrews to second base, designated player Sami Fagan lined a single to left field to bring home Andrews. Shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke followed Fagan later in the inning by blasting a two-run home run over the left field wall for a 3-0 Akron lead.
Fischer-Cooke is now tied for second in the league with eight home runs on the season.
In the second inning, the Racers’ rally continued. Joiner took a pitch up the middle for a single to get her team started with one out. Griffin went one for three on the night, with two walks and one run scored. With a slap hit over the head of the Eagles shortstop Liu Li Li from left fielder Kristen Wyckoff, Akron put runners on first and second base. A centerfield single from Thomas scored Joiner and moved Wyckoff to second. An error on the throw to first by Eagles shortstop Liu Li Li after a Fagan ground ball scored Wyckoff for another Racers run, moving Thomas to third. With two teammates on, right fielder Shellie Robinson smacked her seventh home run to bring in three runs and advance the Racers lead to 8-0.
With Kelly Montalvo up to bat in the third inning, Beijing second baseman Zhao Jing bobbled a ground ball and the Akron third baseman beat out her way to first. On a passed ball, Montalvo made it to second base for Wyckoff. The speedy Racer hit a ground ball single to shortstop, running it out and moving Montalvo to third base. With another quick player up to the plate, an Andrews’ single to second base moved Montalvo home to advance the Eagles deficit 9-0.
In the lead-off spot of the fourth inning, Fagan smacked a solo home run over the right field fence for her first of the season.
"I thought this win was really good for our team because we have been struggling for a little bit,” Fagan said. “So, to come out and click on offense, defense, and in the circle was really huge for us.
“Especially now that we're heading towards the playoffs, so I think that is really good for our team."
First baseman Nicole Schroeder steeped up later in the fourth inning and hit the fourth dinger of the game for Akron, a two-run shot that gave the Racers a 12-0 lead.
Montalvo sent a shot back up the middle for an RBI single in the top of the seventh inning for Akron’s final run of the game.
“I was very pleased with our offense, right from the get go,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “I've challenged them to have quality at bats and they've been working really hard this week. I think they've done a really good job with their approaches.”
The Racers return to defend their home field Friday and Saturday night for the last two games of the final Beijing series. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Racers ticket office at (330) 376-8188.
Game Time: 2:25
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Rachele Fico
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.