Sarah Pauly Photo By Jade Hewitt Courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch
Greeley, CO. – June 29, 2015 - Usually, a hitter has to see a pitcher once or twice before figuring out a game plan in the batter’s box.
Jennifer Gilbert, outfielder for the National Pro Fastpitch Akron Racers, had only seen Dallas Charge pitcher Jolene Henderson from afar — just two players innocently passing by, when Gilbert played on the Canadian National team and Henderson threw for the American side.
Monday evening at the Twin Rivers Complex in Greeley, Gilbert showed she could pick up useful info on the fly, clubbing two home runs against Henderson and driving Akron to a 3-2 victory as part of the Triple Crown Sparkler Juniors softball event. The two teams are in northern Colorado to add their entertainment power to the week-long event and will play a total of four regular-season NPF games.
Tuesday’s game, which will be televised on CBS Sports Network, is set for 6 p.m. at Erie Community Park.
Gilbert singled in the first inning, then put the Racers up, 1-0, on an opposite-field home run to left that Angeline Quiocho nearly grabbed before tumbling over the fence as the ball bounced away. Gilbert steamed around for an inside-the-park homer.
In the sixth inning, following a triple by Taylor Schlopy, Gilbert vaulted a long home run to right field, making it 3-1. Dallas managed a one-out solo homer by Nicole Morgan, but Akron pitcher Sarah Pauly completed the game on a flyout to center.
“I’ve never faced Henderson before, not in the years she was pitching for the US and the five years I played with Canada. But I’ve seen the type of pitches she throws, and we have scouts who help us out a bunch,” said Gilbert, who was born in Saskatchewan, attended Ball State University and was the three-time Mid-American Conference player of the year, one of only 11 players in NCAA history to earn player of the year honors three times in a league. “(The unique setting) wasn’t disrupting. Playing travel ball and in college, you get used to hitting the road. That’s the mental side of the game, where you push through it.”
Pushing through was a prized quality for Pauly as well. Dallas started the fourth with a single, then on a push-bunt play, the Racers did a lot of moving around without making much progress to the ball that left runners on first and second with no outs.
The threat was tamped down, with Dallas scoring just one run on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Thom, but it could have been worse.
“I don’t think we’ve had many of those in games this year. We work on it in practice, and in practice we haven’t executed that play. Those really should be easy outs,” said Pauly, who had a stellar career pitching for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and is tied for 13th all-time in career strikeouts with 1,370. “There was no coverage whatsoever. Usually when you start an inning with something like that, the other team gets momentum.”
Pauly continued to scatter hits and avoid trouble. In the bottom of the seventh, she notched a strikeout before Morgan came up as a pinch-hitter. Morgan took strike one, frowning at the call by the umpire, before getting every bit of a fastball and hitting her no-doubter to left.
“Nicole Morgan is a good hitter; I played with her last season, and I kind of knew what to throw her and what not to,” Pauly added. “I just knew we shouldn’t have thrown that pitch, but I was thinking I could trick her. That didn’t happen — I didn’t get it inside enough. We had an insurance run, and when that went over the fence, I thought, ‘What next?’ I still had to finish the game.”
“Sarah is amazing. She always keeps us in the game and allows us to do our thing,” Gilbert added. “She shuts hitters down. She was keeping the ball low, keeping them off balance.”
The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, is the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers competed in the Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL) for two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and in the NPF since 2004. Historic Firestone Stadium is home to the Racers and numerous amateur events at all levels of play. The Racers kick-off their 14th season of play in 2015.
The Dallas Charge will begin competition in the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2015. The Charge will provide elite softball players the opportunity to pursue a professional career and inspire the next generation of professionals. Located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Charge organization and its players are committed to demonstrating leadership in community involvement, entertainment, and professionalism. Follow the Dallas Charge at http://www.dallascharge.com
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fast pitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fast pitch softball since 2002. www.profastpitch.com