Stratford, CONN - The Connecticut Brakettes held off the Philadelphia Force Thursday night, 3-1 at DeLuca HOF Field, as Mother Nature allowed the teams to sneak a game in. The tarp had been put on the field around 6:00, a joint venture by both the Brakettes and the Force, as rain and strong winds moved into the Stratford, CT area. Game time was delayed, as lightning was seen striking close by the field.. After a 40 minute delay, the first pitch was fired in at 7:45.
Temperatures peaked at over 100 degrees Thursday afternoon, and the short rain storm cooled things off a bit just prior to the start. Sarah Pauly did not cool off, however, as she struck out 13 and walked none. She allowed four hits and one run, as she picked up her 11th win of the season. Only a solo shot by Jenna Hall in the top of the fourth marred what was an otherwise dominating pitching performance.
The Brakettes started the scoring in the third, as Callie Piper led off with a single to left. Denise Denis came in to pinch run and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kelly Kretschman. She tagged up and moved to third when Kellie Wilkerson flew out deep to right field. That brought up Jessica Merchant, NPFs leading home run hitter, with two outs and a runner on third. Merchant hit a shot deep to dead center which fell just shy of being a round-tripper, but landed just over the head of center fielder Sarah Fekete. The result was a standup RBI-double, and a 1-0 Brakette lead. Germaine Fairchild followed with an RBI-double of her own, scoring Merchant from second.
Halls fourth inning home run was her fifth of the year, and her second hit of the game. The Force could only muster two more hits off of Pauly, but threatened in the top of the fifth. Stephanie Van Brakle reached on a two-base error by right-fielder Aimee Minor. Van Brakle drilled a Pauly offering to deep right, putting Minor in a dead sprint to the wall. Minor had the ball momentarily, before it hopped out of her glove. Van Brakle cruised into second easily. A perfectly-placed base hit by Jaime Dacey dropped into shallow left, sending Van Brakle to third, as Dacey took second on the throw. Lindsey Cameron came on to pinch hit for Emily Friedman, and was hit by a pitch thrown by Pauly. With the bases loaded and no outs, Brakette manager John Stratton visited the mound. The Brakettes 2-1 lead seemed precarious at best, but thats when Pauly took the game over. She struck out Stacie Pestrak, Fekete, and second baseman Carrie Leto in order to retire the side. She fanned five more over the last two innings, to raise her game total a season-high 13 strikeouts. She improved to 11-4 on the season, and is second in the league in wins (11), strikeouts (102), and ERA (1.22).
The Brakettes also loaded the bases in the fifth, but with one out. Force starter Jennifer Stewart also wiggled out of trouble, striking out Adrienne Alo with two outs to keep the Brakettes at bay for another inning. Stewart went six innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits, while walking one and striking out two. She dropped to 4-9 with the loss.
The bottom of the sixth yielded the last Connecticut run, as Minor took the first pitch of the inning over the left field wall for her first professional home run. Minor made up for her fielding gaffe with the solo shot, providing some insurance for Pauly. Sarah was able to pick me up in the fifth, when I just lost the ball for a moment, said Minor. It was nice to help out and give her another run to play with.
The Brakettes improved to 20-12, as Philadelphia dropped to 9-20. The clubs will battle it out again Friday night at 7:05 EDT. The game will be webcast at www.ctbrakettes.com.