AKRON, OH – Looking to close in on a spot in the NPF Championship Series next week, the Akron Racers locked up a valuable sweep over the Scrap Yard Dawgs in a doubleheader on Wednesday night at Firestone Stadium, coming from behind to win Game 1 7-5, and then never trailing in a 7-3 win in the nightcap.
"I definitely think we're just really wanting to get to the championships and it's crunch time,” centerfielder A.J. Andrews said. “It just comes down to every pitch, every inning, everything matters and you're never down until it’s the very end. I think we have that mentality of we're never out of it and so we just kept fighting back.”
The Racers now need just one victory in their final three games to secure a playoff spot in the NPF Championship Series in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Once facing a 5-0 deficit, Akron right fielder Shellie Robinson smashed a walk-off three-run home run of Dawgs ace Monica Abbott, who entered the game looking to secure the save, in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete the comeback. It was Robinson’s eighth dinger of the season that secured the 7-5 victory.
"It was awesome. It was my first walk-off as a head coach. Just to feel their energy and their vibe,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “I've told them all year. I don't care who's on the mound. They take that approach, and to be able to do that against Monica in the seventh when they're trying to close the door on us is pretty exceptional. I'm just happy for Shellie and the team, and everything that we're doing."
After falling behind 5-0 after the fourth inning, and battling hard throughout, the Racers found themselves down just one run entering the bottom of the seventh inning. After seeing their big lead slowly slip away in the fifth and sixth innings, the Dawgs turned to four-time NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott to close the game in the seventh.
Second baseman Ashley Thomas drew a lead-off walk to get things going for Akron. Designated player Sami Fagan stepped in and smacked a single, putting the tying and winning runs on for the clean-up hitter Robinson. After getting down in the count 1-2 to Abbott, Robinson (who was 0-3 with two strikeouts up to that point in the game) connected on one, crushing a home run over the fence in left field to win the game for the Racers.
"Those two wins were great team wins,” Robinson said. “It was just an all-around good day for us, and hopefully we can carry that momentum into tomorrow."
The Dawgs took a rather commanding lead against Akron in the third and fourth innings. After scoring one run in the third inning on an RBI single from center fielder Alexis Bennett, the Dawgs really seemed to blow things open in the fourth frame. The Dawgs utilized an error and a string of hits to fuel a big, four-run fourth inning. A single from second baseman Amanda Kamekona scored Kiki Stokes from second. Stokes pinch ran for designated player Taylor Edwards, who reached on an error, and was moved to second on a single from third baseman Britt Vonk. With Vonk and Kamekona on base, Dawgs catcher Meagan May Whitley stepped in and hit a three-run homer to left field, putting Scrap Yard up 5-0 after four innings.
Racers pitcher Jailyn Ford entered the circle following the home run by Whitley, and retired the next two batters to end the fourth. Ford finished the game for the Racers, and did not allow another Scrap Yard run. She allowed just one hit in her 3.2 innings of work in Game 1.
"These wins are huge. We really want to get into that championship spot.,” Ford said. “The next couple of games are really going to make-or-break us, and see what we're made of going into the Championship Series.
“I think we're excited about it, and we're playing some of our best ball right now."
The Racers’ offense fought back in the fifth, getting to Scrap Yard starting pitcher Cheridan Hawkins early in the inning. Back-to-back singles into right field from Griffin Joiner and Kristen Wyckoff, and a perfect bunt single from A.J. Andrews, loaded the bases for Akron with no outs. Maddy Grimm, who pinch ran for Joiner, scored on a wild pitch, and two more runs came across on sacrifice flies from second baseman Chandler Rice and Fagan. The sacrifice fly was Rice’s first career RBI, and the three-run inning brought the Racers within two runs of the Dawgs, 5-3.
Akron inched closer in the sixth inning, scoring a run against new Dawgs pitcher Morgan Foley. Nicole Schroeder was hit by a Foley pitch to start the inning for Akron. Kelley Montalvo followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice, replacing pinch runner Hannah Day at first base. Catcher Griffin Joiner stayed hot, picking up her third hit of the ball game, and left fielder Kristen Wyckoff drove in Montalvo with a single of her own. The run cut the lead to 5-4, giving Akron the chance to win it in the seventh.
Abbott is credited with a blown save and a loss, just her third loss of the season. Ford was the winning pitcher for Akron, tying her for the team lead with five wins on the season. Joiner went 3-for-3 on the game, and Robinson earned Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game honors with her walk-off homer.
The Racers used the momentum of the first game to fuel a dominant performance in a win in which they never trailed.
Akron shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke opened the scoring in the second game, leading off the bottom of the second inning with her ninth home run of the season to take a 1-0. After Dawgs outfielder Nerissa Myers matched Fischer-Cooke’s solo home run in the top of the third inning, the Racers broke things open for good in the bottom of the same inning.
Andrews led off the third inning with a double, and after a Fagan walk, Fischer-Cooke came through again with a single that plated Andrews. First baseman Nicole Schroeder followed Fischer-Cooke, with her seventh home run of the season, a three-run blast that gave Akron a 5-1 advantage.
Myers’ home run would be the only hit allowed by Racer starting pitcher Megan Betsa through the first four innings, allowing Akron to build the large lead.
The Racers added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning as back-to-back doubles by third baseman Kelley Montalvo and Andrews, respectively, gave Akron a 6-1 lead.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Dawgs mounted a bit of a comeback bid, as Katiyana Mauga singled home Kiki Stokes and May-Whitley brought in Mauga with a base hit to cut the game to 6-3. With the tying run at the plate, the Racers turned back to Ford who retired pinch hitter M.J. Knighten to end the threat.
After, Andrews scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, Aimee Creger closed the game for Akron retiring the Dawgs in order in the seventh inning.
The Racers and Dawgs will finish their four-game series Thursday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Racers Ticket Office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 1:55
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Shellie Robinson
Game Time: 2:17
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: A.J. Andrews
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.