August 2, 2017 - National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) - Akron Racers
AKRON, OH - After a marathon, 13-inning game the night before, Tuesday's exhibition between the Akron Racers and Team Canada could have been destined for a similar outcome. However, the game was pre-determined to last only seven innings, so the game ended with the score tied 7-7 after the Racers made a second furious comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Akron faced multi-run deficits on two separate occasions during the game, but continued to fight and tied the game both times.
Heading in to the final half inning of the ball game, the Racers came to the plate trailing 7-4. Centerfielder A.J. Andrews led off the inning with a bunt single, and Canada pitcher Sara Plourde walked both left fielder Kristen Wyckoff and designated player Sami Fagan to load the bases for Akron. Shortstop Sam Fischer-Cooke came through with a sacrifice fly, that came just a few feet from being a game-winning grand slam, cutting the lead to 7-5. Plourde then hit first baseman Nicole Schroeder with a pitch, once again loading the bases. A single from right fielder Megan Geer plated Wyckoff, cutting the Canada lead to just one run. Another sacrifice fly, this time from third baseman Kelley Montalvo, scored Fagan for the seventh run for Akron, tying the game in the seventh inning. With one more out to declare a winner, catcher Shelby Hiers was unable to get all of it, flying out to center field, ending the game with the score at 7-7.
Canada jumped out to a quick lead against Akron, scoring four unanswered runs in the first two innings against Racers' starter Jailyn Ford.
In the first inning, Canada third baseman, and former NPF player, Jenn Salling drove in a run on a double ripped over the head of centerfielder A.J. Andrews. The double plated shortstop Joey Lye, who reached on a bunt single.
Canada came back with three more runs in the second, putting Akron behind the eight ball early in the game. Following back-to-back singles into left-center field by left fielder Erika Polidori and catcher Kaleigh Rafter, a sac bunt from designated player Carey-Leigh Vyse moved both runners into scoring position. Centerfielder Larissa Franklin smacked a double into left center, scoring both runners. Franklin advanced to third on an error following her hit, and was able to score when second baseman Kelsey Jenkins grounded out to third base, giving Canada the early 4-0 lead.
Akron battled back, however, as reliever Emily Weiman entered the circle to start the third, and did not give up a run in the next three innings. The Racers began their comeback in the bottom of the third inning, as A.J. Andrews stretched a single into a double on a hit to shallow right-center field to lead off the inning. A bunt from Kristen Wyckoff moved Andrews to third, and a throwing error allowed her to come home to score Akron's first run of the game and cut the score to 4-1.
A couple Canada errors led to Akron's second run of the game in the fourth frame. Geer reached first on an error by Lye, and stole second base to move into scoring position. An error by Jenkins at second base on a grounder hit by Hiers allowed Geer to hustle around and score, cutting the lead to 4-2.
Akron completed their initial comeback effort in the fifth inning, tying the game at 4-4 at the hands of Fischer-Cooke. With two outs, Fagan ripped a single into right field, bringing the tying run to the plate. Fischer-Cooke tied it up with one swing of the bat, blasting a two-run homer to straight away centerfield and evening the score after five innings.
"Tonight, we really came together and I think that's really important to finish out the season, to get our run for the playoffs," Fischer-Cooke said. "I think it was just everybody being there for everybody. Everybody rooting everybody on. It was just a really big team effort tonight."
In the top of the sixth and seventh innings, it looked as though Canada would take the victory. Canada scored a go-ahead run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Jenkins, giving them the slim 5-4 lead. Team Canada would add two insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning, as Rafter hit a two-RBI single into right field, pushing the Canada lead to three runs before the seventh inning rally by the Racers. Rafter ended the game 4-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI.
Starting pitcher Karissa Hovinga pitched 5 innings and allowed only two earned runs before being relieved by Sierra Bertrand. Bertrand threw a perfect sixth inning, before Canada turned it over to Plourde in the seventh. After Ford and Weiman, Alexis Silkwood and Laura Winter each pitched two-thirds of an inning to finish of the game for the Racers in the circle.
"I'm pretty pleased all around with the little adjustments that we are making, we just have to do it all together, Akron Field Manager Charlotte Morgan explained. "It seems we either show up in the circle, or we show up on offense. We just have to show up all in the same day. I think if we do that we're going to be unstoppable."
Andrews had two hits and scored two runs, while Wyckoff had two hits and a run, and Fischer-Cooke drove in three RBI to lead the Racers offensively.