AKRON, OH – The Akron Racers (24-24) could not overcome a poor start defensively, committing three errors in the first inning, as the Scrap Yard Dawgs won the series finale 5-2 on Thursday night to split the four-game series.
The Dawgs (31-18) came out aggressively in the first inning and mixed with defensive miscues, the visitors gained an early lead at Firestone Stadium. A lead-off walk from left fielder Nerissa Myers started the inning. After stealing second base, Myers scored when a line drive from first baseman Brittany Cervantes went between the legs of Akron left fielder Kristen Wyckoff. The error placed Cervantes on second base and gave the Dawgs their first run. Third baseman Britt Vonk then bunted for a single to move Cervantes to third base. On a slap hit from centerfielder Allexis Bennett, Racers shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke bobbled the ball to allow Cervantes to score, after Fischer-Cooke gathered the ball, her throw to first base went errant, bringing home Vonk to put the Dawgs ahead 3-0.
“Getting the two runs, and doing what we did, that's got to be enough,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “We can't give them a three spot with three errors in the first.”
The 3-0 advantage gave starting pitcher Monica Abbott a cushion and she took advantage, throwing a complete game for the Dawgs, allowing five hits with two earned runs and 11 strikeouts.
A solo home run from Cervantes in the third inning increased the Dawgs lead to 4-0. Her impressive offense earned Cervantes the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game after going 3-for-4 with two RBI, a double and a home run.
With a four-run deficit, Akron began to fight back against the Dawgs in the bottom of the third inning. A line drive single to left field from third baseman Kelley Montalvo kick-started the Racer rally. With Montalvo on first base, catcher Griffin Joiner drove a pitch to the right-center field wall for a double, scoring Montalvo for the first Akron run. Pinch runner Hannah Day entered at second base and advanced to third on a Wyckoff ground out to third base. After centerfielder A.J. Andrews was able to lay down a beautiful bunt, Day sped home to beat the throw from Abbott to cut the Racers’ deficit to 4-2.
Akron pitcher Rachele Fico entered the circle to relieve starter Jailyn Ford in the top of the fourth inning. Fico held the Dawgs to one earned run, allowing four hits with three strikeouts in four innings.
"I thought Rachele did a great job. Especially after not doing as well as she would have liked in her start in game one,” Morgan said. “She came in and did a really good job of hitting her spots, mixing her pitches, and not letting her last outing affect her. I think she did a really good job and I like where she's at."
Continuing to battle, the Racers put pressure on their opponent in the home half of the fourth inning. Right fielder Shellie Robinson lined a shot to left field for a single to start the inning. After a Montalvo walk and a hit-by-pitch at-bat from Joiner loaded the bases for Akron with two outs. Abbott forced Wyckoff to ground out shortstop Kayla Winkfield to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, a two-out single by designated player Shellie Robinson once again brought the tying run to the plate, but Abbott struck out Robinson to end the threat. The strikeout started a streak of seven-straight retired by Abbott to end the game.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Dawgs added an insurance run on an RBI double by Cervantes that plated Myers to put the Dawgs ahead 5-2. The victory concluded the Dawgs regular season, as they will now await their opponent in the semifinals of the NPF Championship Series after securing the second seed.
The Racers finish their home stand and regular season with a two-game series against the Texas Charge this weekend. The first game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday and the second game with a first pitch start time of 4:05 p.m. on Sunday. Akron needs one victory over the fifth-place Charge to secure a spot in the NPF Championship Series in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, August 17-20.
“I don't want them to press for a game. I don't want them to press just to get in. I don't want us to be happy with that. I want us to just play our game,” Morgan said. “It's going to be a grind, but it's going to be fun, and that's what I want it to be. I want us to just play the game we've been playing all summer."
For more information or to purchase tickets for this weekend’s series against the Charge contact the Akron Racers Ticket Office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 2:22
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Brittany Cervantes
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.