AKRON, Ohio - The Akron Racers went toe to toe with the first place Chicago Bandits (20-5) in front of nearly 1,500 fans at Firestone Stadium, and at the end of the rainy Wednesday night, it was the Racers (16-10) that stood victorious 2-1. On a night where pitching dominated, it took a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning for the game to be decided. Crystl Bustos got the inning started with a one out line drive single to center field. Racers' manager Barb Sherwood then turned to her bench for the one and only time of the night, bringing Sari-Jane Jenkins in to pinch run for Bustos. Chicago's starter, Eileen Canney, then inflicted some damage to her own cause. Canney walked Kaitlin Cochran and Jamee Juarez back to back to load the bases, and end her night. Chicago dipped into their bullpen with Brandice Balschmiter entering a tough jam. Balschmiter only got to face one batter as Jenny Topping drove a fly ball to straight away center field that was deep enough to bring Jenkins home to score the winning run.
The two runs were enough to secure victory, thanks to a great performance in the circle by rookie Lisa Norris. The Tar Heel alum is getting used to coming up with big pitching performances and Wednesday night was no different. Norris (5-4) was in control from the first pitch and wouldn't let it go. The Racer starter pitched all eight innings allowing only five hits, one walk and a hit batter. She also struck out eleven batters en route to the victory and recorded at least one strike out in seven of the eight innings. The game was Norris' sixth complete game tying her for the team lead with Angela Tincher.
The one run Norris allowed was unearned and aided by an errant throw by Kristen Butler when the Racer catcher tried to throw behind Amber Patton at second base. The throw wound up in the outfield and Patton wound up on third base. Shortly after Stacy May drove an RBI single down the left field line to score Patton. The lone Bandit run tied the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth inning.
To that point, Akron had been clinging to a 1-0 lead they earned in the bottom of the second inning. Jamee Juarez began the inning with a walk. Jenny Topping then attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt. When the Bandits tried to get Juarez at second shortstop Tammy Williams missed the base and both Juarez and Topping were safe. After Juarez stole third and a couple batters later, Kenora Posey bounced a single through the right side to put Akron on the board.
That run was the only blemish to Canney's record through the regulation seven innings as she was just as tough as Norris for most of the night. Canney (7-1) was handed her first loss of the year in a tough way as she pitched 7.1 innings and allowed only two runs on five scattered hits and four walks that became her undoing. Canney also struck out nine batters on the evening.
The Racers will host Chicago again tomorrow night for game two of this five game series at 7:05 PM. For ticket information contact the Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188 or online at www.akronracers.org.