Jennifer Gilbert (Akron Racers) Photo by Ryan Breiding Courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch
AKRON, OH (July 11, 2017) – The Akron Racers split a doubleheader that featured a game against the Beijing Shougang Eagles and a game against the Scrap Yard Dawgs. Akron came from behind to beat the Eagles 7-2 in the first game, before losing to the Dawgs 2-0 in the night cap at Firestone Stadium.
Going into the bottom of the fifth inning trailing 2-1 against the Eagles, the Akron bats came to life, allowing the Racers to surge ahead of Beijing. Second baseman Ashley Thomas got things going for the Racers, reaching base on a two-out bunt single. Left fielder Kristen Wyckoff followed with an infield single of her own, and a wild throw to first base by Eagle pitcher Wang Lan allowed Thomas to come all the way around to score from first, tying the ball game 2-2. Designated player Sami Fagan laced a base hit to right field, bringing Wyckoff across from third to give the Racers a 3-2 advantage. Right fielder Jennifer Gilbert capped the two-out rally, blowing things open with a three-run bomb to right-center field pushing the Akron lead to 6-2.
“I think we had great pitching,” Gilbert said, giving the credit to her teammates in the circle. “I think offensively we battled like we normally do, and the defense was great as well. So, I think we just stick with those, and we will be in really good shape going forward."
The Racers couldn’t be stopped by Mother Nature, following a weather delay that pushed the first pitch back about an hour. Akron leadoff hitter Ashley Thomas, stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and promptly smacked a home run to left field to give Akron the early 1-0 advantage. Thomas ended up going 3-4 with three runs scored, hitting another single and scoring on a double by Wyckoff in the sixth. Her outstanding performance earned Thomas the Vaultz® Lock It Up!® Player of the Game award.
Beijiing would not go down quietly, striking back with two unearned runs in the fourth inning against Akron starting pitcher Jailyn Ford. After second baseman Zhao Jing reached on an error, and designated player Liu Fei Fei reached on a bunt, first baseman Lu Ying ripped a ball into the gap in right-center field. The hit was good for an RBI double for Ying, driving in Jing. Chen Jia scored on a throwing error by centerfielder Shellie Robinson, plating the second run for the Eagles.
After entering the circle in relief of Ford to start the fifth inning, Emily Weiman was magnificent. Weiman set down each of the nine Eagles she faced, pitching three perfect relief innings to pick up the win. Weiman’s record is now 3-1, with all three wins coming at home.
"I was just excited to get back out there today,” Weiman said. “After an outing that I wasn't exactly pleased with, it was just really nice to get back out there at home with our crowd and everything. I felt really good. We worked on a couple things during the week that I was excited to get back out there and execute."
Starting pitcher Wang Lan pitched all seven innings for Beijing, and was credited with the loss. The Eagles did not get their first hit against Akron started Jailyn Ford until there were two outs in the third inning. Overall, the Racers’ pitchers allowed on two hits.
"I thought we played pretty well. I'm really excited,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “I thought our staff threw really well. We had a couple errors in the first game and gave up one big hit, but then our offense woke up. I think you see we always get better through the game, and I love that about this team."
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Racers were outdueled by Scrap Yard Dawgs ace Monica Abbott, who allowed only one hit and struck out 17 Akron batters in a complete game shutout victory.
Racers pitcher Megan Betsa, Alexis Silkwood and Rachele Fico were exceptional for most of the night, but just couldn’t quite match Abbott’s performance, as the Akron offense couldn’t push a run across home plate.
Abbott retired the first seven batters she faced, including six strikeouts before she hit Akron catcher Griffin Joiner with a pitch in the bottom of the third inning. The Dawgs’ ace would carry a no-hitter into the fifth inning, when with two outs, Racer third baseman Kelley Montalvo shot a sharply hit ball back up the middle that bounced off Abbott and allowed Montalvo to speed into first base with an infield hit. Abbott retired the last seven batters she faced in the game to complete the shutout.
Betsa started the game for Akron and surrendered a home run to Dawgs leadoff hitter Nerissa Myers to start the top of the first inning, but settled in to just allow two hits in two innings pitched. Silkwood replaced Betsa and retired 13 of the 16 batters she faced holding the Dawgs to a narrow 1-0 advantage through six innings.
"Alexis has been outstanding all season. Sometimes we'll use her for a batter, an inning, to close... she's a competitor,” Morgan said. “She's going to fight. She wants the ball, and I love that about her. I love what she does. She's not intimidated by anybody you have to have someone like that. She's fun to watch."
The Dawgs added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning when Meagan May-Whitley brought home Anissa Urtez with a single to left field.
The Racers, Dawgs and Eagles will all be in action at Firestone Stadium Wednesday. Akron faces Beijing in the first game of a day-night doubleheader with first pitch scheduled for 12:05 p.m ET. The Dawgs and Eagles will meet in the second game at 7:05 p.m ET. For more information or to purchase tickets contact the Racers ticket office at 330-376-8188.
Vaultz® Lock It Up!® Player of the Game: Monica Abbott (ScrapYard Dawgs)
About the Akron Racers:
The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers will celebrate their 16th season of play in 2017. 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.
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Texas Charge and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2017 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.