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By: John Urchek
BATON ROUGE, LA – The Akron Racers pursuit of the 2017 Cowles Cup came to an end Friday night, as they could not win a must-win second game of their semifinal matchup in the NPF Championship Series. The Scrap Yard Dawgs defeated the Racers 4-3, as Dawgs (31-18) third baseman Kasey Cooper plated the deciding run in the bottom of the fifth inning by drawing a bases-loaded walk.  
After Akron (26-24) pitcher Megan Betsa walked Dawgs right fielder Nerissa Myers to lead off the fifth inning, the Racers turned to Rachele Fico out of the bullpen.  After Fico got centerfielder Allexis Bennett to hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out, Fico walked first baseman Brittany Cervantes and plunked catcher Taylor Edwards to load the bases for Cooper.
Akron fought all night, coming back from a 3-0 deficit, but could never gain the lead, as Dawgs ace Monica Abbott threw 3.2 perfect innings to close the game and pick up her second postseason victory in as many nights.  Abbott struck out eight of the 11 batters she faced.
Trailing 3-0 after two innings, the Racers rallied in the top of the third inning.  With two outs second baseman Ashley Thomas got aboard with an infield single and designated player Sami Fagan followed Thomas by blasting a 2-1 pitch from Dawgs starter Cheridan Hawkins over the right field fence to cut the score to 3-2 in favor of Scrap Yard.
Akron continued the rally in the fourth frame, as shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke flared a single into left field to start the inning.  After third baseman Kelley Montalvo was hit by a Hawkins pitch, the Dawgs turned to Rachel Fox out of the bullpen.  Racer catcher Griffin Joiner welcomed Fox to the game by smacking a ground ball up the middle just past a diving Ali Aguilar to score Fischer-Cooke and even the game.  Joiner would be the only hitter Fox faced, as the Dawgs turned to Abbott after the hit to close the game.
The Dawgs jumped out to an early lead as Myers drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the first inning.  After a sacrifice bunt by Bennett, Cervantes drove home Myers with a base hit into left field.  The Dawgs would add two more runs in the bottom of the second inning.  Second baseman Hannah Flippen recorded a one-out single and catcher Meagan May-Whitley followed with a walk.  After left fielder Kayla Winkfield advanced both runners with a ground out to Montalvo, Myers delivered a two-out hit that scored both runners to give the Dawgs a 3-0 advantage.
The Dawgs will meet either the USSSA Pride or the Chicago Bandits in Game 1 of the Finals at LSU's Tiger Park on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT.  All games of the NPF Championship Series are being streamed for free on NPF TV, the league’s online streaming service, and the Olympic Channel.
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.

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