ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Down 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh the Force’s DeAnn Justice stepped up to the plate to lead off the inning. On the very first pitch Justice crushed a deep fly ball over the center field wall to even the score at 1-1. Unfortunately the Force’s late rally fell just short, as the Akron Racers scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth to take 3-1 extra inning victory Thursday evening at ECTB Stadium in front of 360 spectators.
Thursday’s tough loss dropped the Force’s record to 3-13 on the season, while the Racers who currently sit in third place in the league standings improved their record to 10-7.
Despite the tough loss, the Force saw an exemplary pitching performance from rookie Kristin Erb, who went 7 1/3 innings against the Racers. Despite a minor hiccup in the top of the first which gave Akron an early 1-0 lead, Erb was dominant throughout the evening. In total the Lock Haven University grad totaled four strikeouts and allowed just eight hits.
Throughout the night Erb’s efforts were equally matched by the Racers Lisa Norris, who pitched all eight innings and earned her third win of the year. Norris surrendered one run on six hits and fanned seven batters.
Offensively, the Racers line-up was quieted by the solid pitching of Erb and the amazing defensive efforts by her teammates. Yesterday’s game changer Crystl Bustos was held to just one hit on the day in her three at-bats. Lisa Modglin proved to be the top offensive threat for her team going 3-for-3 and scoring two of her team’s three runs.
For the Force, Justice’s momentum changing homerun in the seventh was one of two hits on the night for the designated player. Also making contact in the extra inning battle was Lillian Hammond who went 2-for-3 as well. Defensively, shortstop Audrey LaFountain had a busy evening, but came up with some huge plays that limited the Racers offense time and time again.
Just like Wednesday’s game, the Racers quickly jumped ahead on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. Akron took a 1-0 lead on a Bustos RBI single to center field. From there it became a pitching duel between Erb and Norris that stretched all seven innings.
After Justice’s then game tying homerun, the Force managed to get a pair of runners on base. However the Racers eliminated the threat on an inning ending double play forcing the eighth frame.
Even with her amazing performance through the first seven innings, Erb was unable to quiet the Racers’ bats in the eighth giving up back-to-back singles to start off the inning. She did manage to retire Bustos for the first out of the inning. After an intentional walk which loaded the bases, Jessica Sallinger entered the game. In a tough jam, Sallinger tried everything in her power to hold the Racers off the scoreboard. Akron went onto record two more runs to go up 3-1. After recording the final two outs in the inning, the Force stepped up to the plate again, looking for another comeback. That comeback, which had moved the game into the extra inning, could not be sparked for the second time as the Racers retired the first three batters in order to take the victory.
Both teams return to ECTB Stadium tomorrow evening for game three of the five game series. Start time is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. EST. As always the game can be viewed live on the internet by going to http://www.philadelphiaforce.com/live.