AKRON, OH – The Akron Racers decisively swept the Beijing Shougang Eagles in a doubleheader on Saturday evening, winning by scores of 7-0 and 9-0 in the two games, to complete a season series sweep of the Eagles and improve to 22-22 on the season.
Akron didn’t allow a run in the three-game series against Beijing, extending a streak for the pitching staff of 52 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to the Eagles.
"I think we came out really strong in the circle both games. Every time we do that I think we play good defense behind them, and the offense is always there,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “We just have to give them a chance to do what they do. It takes the pressure off them offensively.
“I'm really proud of our defense. Even the substitutions that came in made some really good plays all around. So, I think it started there."
The Racers took care of business in the first game of Saturday’s double header, defeating Beijing 7-0. A complete game, 10-strikeout performance from Racers starting pitcher Emily Weiman and an outstanding day at the plate by center fielder A.J. Andrews led Akron to victory in Game 1.
A couple of doubles helped the Racers plate the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning. Catcher Griffin Joiner led off the inning with a double to left-center field, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Andrews then hit a double of her own, sneaking one just inside the first base line, scoring Joiner and giving the Racers the 1-0 lead.
The Racers added another run in the fourth at the hands of rookie first baseman Nicole Schroeder. With two outs, Schroeder stepped in and launched a solo home run to left-center field off of Beijing starter Li Qi, extending the Akron lead to 2-0. The homer was Schroeder’s sixth home run of the season, the most of any NPF rookie.
Akron blew the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Racers plated five insurance runs in the inning, with the big hit coming once again from center fielder A.J. Andrews. Designated player Sami Fagan led off the inning with a double to deep right field, and eventually scored on a wild pitch on a walk drawn by Schroeder. A single by Sam Fischer-Cooke, Schroeder’s walk, and a walk drawn by pinch hitter Jenny Gilbert loaded the bases for Akron. Andrews stepped in smacked her third extra base hit of the game, a double off the left-center field wall to clear the bases.
"(We’re) really try to come together as a team and discuss what we need to do to improve, because it's crunch time now and every game counts to making it to the championships,” Andrews said. “I think right now we're just all really focused, but all really trying to make sure we're still having fun and again, trust the process and not really trying to play tight."
The Eagles’ best chance to score a run came in the seventh inning, as designated player Wang Bei hit a one-out triple to left field. Weiman came right back, however, and struck out the next batter, and first baseman Xu Jia grounded out to Kelley Montalvo to complete the shutout.
Andrews ended the ball game 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and four RBI. Emily Weiman allowed only three hits in her complete game shutout performance, earning her the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game award. Weiman is now 4-0 with 22 strikeouts and only 1 earned run against Beijing on the season.
Weiman picked up the win, moving her record to 5-1 overall on the season.
“Our last home stand trying to make every game count for the championship, but we've grown a lot and I think we're coming together really nicely right now,” Weiman said “I think everyone is really feeling good with their at-bats, we're playing good defense and in the circle we've done well across the board so I think that we're starting to click on all cylinders and that's really good to see."
The Racers picked up where they left off in the final game of the doubleheader, striking immediately in the bottom of the first inning to take the lead. Andrews led off the game by roping a double to centerfield, after the play was over Andrews stole third base when pitcher Wang Lan left the pitching circle. Second baseman Ashley Thomas drove in Andrews with a base hit to left field. Shortstop Sami Fagan followed Thomas by smashing a home run to right field to give Akron a 3-0 lead.
In the circle, Megan Betsa recovered nicely from allowing hits to the first two batters of the game, retiring the last 15 hitters she faced for five scoreless innings, striking out six and recording her second victory of the season.
Following the three-hitter barrage, Lan retired six straight hitters before the top of the lineup came up again. In the bottom of the third inning, Andrews and Thomas kicked things off with bunt singles. Fagan ripped a double to left-centerfield to plate Andrews.
In the fourth frame, Joiner smacked her second home run of the season, a one-run blast that extend the Racers’ advantage to 5-0. Later in the inning, Fagan smashed her second home run of the game and third in three games, driving in Andrews and Thomas once again to take a commanding 8-0 lead.
"I've made a ton of different adjustments throughout the whole entire season. My swing is a lot different than it was last year and I've kind of been trying to find it this whole year,” Fagan said. “I think these past few games I've found the one that works for me, so I'm just going to continue to use those."
Akron’s final run of the night came when two walks and an error loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded, Wang Xin Yu plunked Maddy Grimm to drive in Fagan for her third run of the game.
Aimee Creger relieved Betsa after the fifth inning and threw two shutout innings with four strikeouts to close out the game.
The Racers strengthened their hold on third place in the NPF standings with the sweep as they battle for one of the four spots in the NPF Championship Series on LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana later this month.
Akron will continue their home stand on Tuesday as they welcome the second-place Scrap Yard Dawgs to town for the first game of a four-game series to start the final week of the regular season. For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Racers Ticket Office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 1:47
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Emily Weiman
Game Time: 1:59
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Sami Fagan
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.