AKRON, OHIO – As the Akron Racers continue to celebrate their 15th Season of Play in 2016, the organization is digging through its history to honor the 30 players that have helped define the Racers franchise. The 10th player to distinguish herself as one of those IMPACT honorees throughout the history of one of America’s longest existing women’s professional softball team is one of the greatest outfielders in franchise and NPF history. That player is Iyhia McMichael. McMichael’s historic home run secured Akron’s first and only Cowles Cup in 2005.
“Iyhia was flat-out an amazing athlete,” remembered GM Joey Arrietta. “With the #1 pick in the draft, teams were looking at pitching as we always do. But I could not pass on Iyhia and I am so glad I didn’t.”
If for nothing else, McMichael will always be remembered as the player who, with one out in the top of the eighth inning, blasted a full-count offering from Jennie Finch over the leftfield wall to put the Racers ahead for good, 5-4, on August 18, 2005. That home run gave Akron their only lead of the game against the Chicago Bandits, but it was the one that counted. It also erased what had been a hitless day in four attempts for McMichael. McMichael also made her presence felt in that game defensively when she charged hard to rob Finch of a bloop single with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
What fans may be less likely to remember is McMichael replicating that feat of sorts later the same day. It was McMichael’s two-run blast in the All-Star game, which followed the championship game, that vaulted the East All-Stars to a 2-1 victory over the West squad. McMichael was named an All-Star by leading the Racers with 56 runs, 62 hits, 12 doubles, three triples and a .400 batting average in 2005.
McMichael was the first selection by Racers in the 2004 NPF Senior Draft, a pick that would pay huge dividends the next four seasons. In her rookie season with the Racers, McMichael was named the NPF Player of the Year, one of only two players to earn that distinction for Akron. In her rookie season she also hit for a .339 average to be named the league’s batting champion and an NPF All-Star. McMichael led the team with 34 runs scored, 61 hits and nine doubles in her first season in the league.
In McMichael’s third season, she once again led the Racers in runs (26), hits (44), doubles (9) and batting average (.333). McMichael capped her final season in 2007 leading the Racers for four consecutive seasons with 27 runs scored. She is the only player in Akron history to have accomplished that incredible distinction.
McMichael left a lasting legacy in her playing career, amassing a lot of records that are still intact. She remains all-time franchise leader in runs (143), hits (192), doubles (32) and stolen bases (48). McMichael was also a three-time NPF All-Star or All-NPF Team selection, throughout her decorated four-year career, McMichael had a .333 average, 27 home runs and 85 RBI.
McMichael and the other 29 IMPACT honorees will be recognized this summer, culminating in a weekend-long celebration July 15-17 when the Racers welcome the Dallas Charge to Firestone Stadium for a three-game series. The Racers will welcome back many of their former players to celebrate the history of the franchise, culminating in the pre-game presentation of the 30 IMPACT honorees on July 16th. Each honoree will receive a special commemorative jersey bearing their name and number.
2016 Akron Racers IMPACT Honorees (to date)
1. Carla Brookbank Schaal 9. Radara McHugh
2. Crystl Bustos 10. Iyhia McMichael
3. Amy Kyler
4. Sarah Dawson
5. Nicole Odom Reis
6. Tobin Echo-Hawk
7. Kellyn Tate
8. Kristin Johnson
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fast pitch (NPF) league, celebrating their 15th season of play in 2016. 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: National Pro Fast pitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fast pitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fast pitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women's fast pitch softball since 2002. www.profastpitch.com
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