AKRON, Ohio - The Philadelphia Force slugged their way to a victory in game one of a double header at Firestone Stadium 8-4 and the Akron Racers (7-7) drew even on the day in game two winning 5-3.
In game one it was a tale of two different games. Both Akron and Philadelphia's pitching ruled for the first four innings as Kristin Erb held the Racers to just one run. At the same time, Akron's pitching combination of starter Brittany Weil and reliever Kate Robinson contained the Force (3-10) also allowing only one run. Starting the top of the fifth inning that all changed as the offense of both teams got rolling. With one out in the fifth, Robinson walked a pair of Philadelphia batters. After a ground out advanced Lillian Hammond and Clare Burnum to second and third respectively, pinch hitter Emily Friedman broke the 1-1 tie with a two run single to center field.
The Racers would answer in the bottom half of the inning, picking up two runs of their own when Katie Cochran launched her first home run of her professional career to straight away center field tying the game back at 3-3. Unfortunately for Akron, the Force could not be held back and scored again in the top of the sixth inning with a little help from the Racers to take the lead for good. With one out in the inning, Jami Lobpries hit a grounder to shortstop Jessica Toocheck, The Racer shortstop couldn't handle the ball and committed an error to allow Lobpries to reach first base. The next batter, Alex Newton laid a bunt down the third baseline. Crystl Bustos fielded the ball, but threw the ball down the right field line, allowing Lobpries to reach third and Newton second. Burnum drove a sacrifice fly ball to right field to score Lobpries and Hammond laced a double to score Newton.
The 5-3 score became a deficit the Racers couldn't overcome. After Akron picked up a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Jackie Pasquerella, the Force would add three more in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. The knockout blow was delivered by Megan Gibson who hit a two-run homerun, her second long ball of the game. Gibson ended the game going 3-3 with two home runs, a double and three RBIs, she also was walked intentionally.
Stacy Birk picked up her first victory of the year for the Force in relief allowing one run on three hits. Birk (1-0) also walked and struck out one in her 2.2 innings of work.
For the Racers, Robinson (1-1) picked up the loss as she couldn't maintain a hot start. The Hawaii graduate struck out the first four batters she faced and only allowed one hit and no runs for the first two innings she pitched. However, she gave up all four runs scored in the fifth and sixth innings by the Force and ended the day, giving up four runs (two earned), on four hits and four walks while striking out four in four innings of work.
Game two saw Gibson take to the circle as well as the lineup for the Force and Akron sent out Angela Tincher to match-up against Gibson. The game cruised into the bottom of the third inning as Philadelphia only managed one hit off of Tincher to that point and Akron didn't receive it's first hit until the bottom of the third inning when Sam Banister led off with a single to right field. After a sacrifice bunt put Banister on second base, Kenora Posey hit a ball to third. Clare Burnum threw the ball into Posey, where it ricocheted into right field. Banister scored all the way from second on the play to make the score 1-0 in favor of Akron and give the Racers their first lead of the day since the bottom of the first in game one.
The lead would be short lived as Hammond reached first on a dropped third strike to start the top of the fourth inning. After Tincher walked Brette Reagan, Gibson came to the plate again and hit her third homerun of the day, a three run shot that gave the Force a 3-1 lead.
Akron would battle back though, Kristen Butler drove an RBI double to right-center field to make the score 3-2 in favor of Philadelphia after four innings. In the bottom of the fifth the Racers took advantage of four errors to take the lead. Catcher Kelsey hoffman got things started with a base hit to left field. Posey then laid down a sacrifice bunt to shortstop, Posey's speed again forced a bad throw and she reached safely thanks to an error. With runners on first and second Lisa Modglin gave the Racers a 4-3 with an RBI single. Philadelphia's centerfielder, Hammond, misplayed the ball on a bounce though which allowed Posey to come around from first for the go ahead run. Modglin made it all the way to third base on the play, but was retired on a botched squeeze play that got her caught between third and home. Cochran drove in Pasquerella with a base hit later in the inning to make the score 5-3.
Tincher (2-1) picked up the victory for the Racers in game two going the full seven innings and only making the one mistake to Gibson, giving her three runs allowed, two earned, on three hits and two walks while striking out seven. Gibson (0-2) picked up the loss for Philadelphia with numbers that were made to look far worse by a lack of defensive support than they actually were. She gave up five runs, only two earned, on seven hits and two walks. Philadelphia's defense made six errors in the game that amounted to three unearned runs.
The Racers host the Force for the series finale Sunday afternoon at 2:05 PM at Firestone Stadium. For ticket information please contact the Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188 or through their website at www.akronracers.org.