July 9, 2017 - National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) - Akron Racers
AKRON, OH - The Akron Racers battled throughout, but were once again unable to overcome a quick start by the Bandits, as Chicago took the final game of the season series by a score of 3-2 on Saturday night at Firestone Stadium, holding off multiple comeback bids by the Racers. Akron and the Bandits split the season series 5-5.
Chicago got on the board early against Akron and starting pitcher Rachele Fico, putting two runs up in the top of the first inning. After left fielder Brenna Moss legged out a double, right fielder Emily Crane stepped in and blasted a two-run home run to right-center field to give Chicago the quick 2-0 lead.
The Racers responded with a run of their own in the first inning against Chicago starting pitcher Lacey Waldrop. Centerfielder A.J. Andrews led off the inning by legging out a bunt single. Second baseman Ashley Thomas reached first on a fielder's choice, shortstop Sami Fagan reached on an error, and right fielder Shellie Robinson drew a four pitch walk to load the bases. Designated player Jenny Gilbert flared a ball to left field that landed just out of reach of the diving Brenna Moss, allowing Thomas to score the Racers' first run of the game.
In the third inning, Chicago would once again extend its lead with a two-out rally. With two outs, Crane and third baseman Natalie Hernandez both punched two-out base hits. Bandit catcher Sahvanna Jaquish, squeezed a double just inside the right field line to bring Crane home to give Chicago a 3-1 lead.
Akron continued to fight, once again responded with a run in its half of the third inning against Bandits reliever Haylie Wagner. Second baseman Ashley Thomas led off the inning with a double down the first base line. After a fly ball by shortstop Sami Fagan moved Thomas to third, Shellie Robinson followed with a sacrifice fly, allowing Thomas to score her second run of the ball game for the Racers.
"My teammates were the one's moving me over," Thomas said. "They had solid hits and they happened to get caught. I just did my job with the hits that they gave me... Every time they scored, we scored. It's a good way to look at the game. We fought back every time."
Akron had chances to even the game in the middle innings, but could never get the breakthrough they needed. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Racer third baseman Kelley Montalvo smacked a one-out single to right field. Two batters later left fielder Kristen Wyckoff laced a base hit to right field, as Montalvo raced towards home, Crane threw a dart to retire Montalvo and end the inning.
In the next inning, Fagan walked and Robinson hit a single, both with two outs. With runners on first and second base, designated player Jennifer Gilbert smoked a line drive to the right side of the infield that Chicago second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz dove and snagged to rob Gilbert of an opportunity at an RBI single.
"I thought we played really well, and came out with good energy," Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. "I thought the pitching staff did really well. It was great to get Betsa and Creger back."
Haylie Wagner picks up the win for her ninth victory of the season. Breanna Wonderly was credited with a save, her second of the year. Crane was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI to lead the Bandit offense.
The Racers (13-12) will stay home at Firestone Stadium to play four games in the next three days against the Scrap Yard Dawgs and the Beijing Shougang Eagles. The Dawgs and Eagles will meet each other at Firestone Stadium Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. On Monday night, the Dawgs and Eagles will meet again at 5:05 p.m., the Racers will take on the Dawgs in the second game of a double header following the first game. The Bandits (14-13) get a bit of a break before traveling to Houston to take on the Dawgs at The Scrap Yard on July 15th.