Akron, Ohio - The Akron Racers and Denso Japan officially kicked off their series Thursday night with the Racers coming out victorious 5-3.
Things looked rough early for the Racers(14-7). With one out, starter Radara McHugh walked two consecutive batters to put runners on first and second. Catcher Itoh Azuma hit a grounder back at McHugh, but the pitcher failed to field the ball. The error loaded the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly by Kazue Itoh scored Yuri Masumaya for the first run of the inning and advanced the other two runners. A two out single by Minako Tanaka plated two more before the Racers could escape the inning that yielded three unearned runs.
After the first inning, McHugh settled in and controlled the Japanese hitters for the rest of the night. Throwing 31 pitches in the first inning, McHugh only needed 58 pitches the rest of the game. In the last six innings, McHugh only allowed three batters to reach base on two hits and a hit by pitch that knocked Mayuko Shinohara out of the game.
McHugh (6-3) picked up the win with three unearned runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter in seven innings pitched.
With McHugh putting the necessary zeros on the board for Japan, the question became how would the Racers offense respond.
The answer started to come in the home half of the first as Veronica Wootson scored on a single by Iyhia McMichael that escaped right fielder Hiromi Tateiwa and rolled all the way to the fence.
With the score still 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third, Akron's offense broke through. Right fielder Tracee McCoy gave herself and the Racers a gift, blasting a home run to the left field to start the inning. Just moments before the home run it was announced that it was McCoy's birthday.
Following McCoy, Wootson got her second hit on the night, this time a double to left center field. The hit knocked starter Risa Uno out of the game with only two innings of work.
Wootson advanced to third on a ground out to shortstop by Norrelle Dickson. After a walk and stolen base for Iyhia McMichael, there were runners on second and third.
Designated player Kristen Butler stepped up and hit a ground ball to third baseman Mayuko Matuo. Matuo attempted to go home to get Wootson, but failed. Butler rounded second and got caught in a run down that allowed McMichael to come around from second and score as well. The two run hit put Akron on top 4-3.
The Racers didn't look back and added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Butler absolutely smashed a home run to straight away centerfield that sailed for days.
For Denso Japan Chiho Takei, picked up the loss, going three innings and allowing one run on no hits and a walk in relief.
The Racers and Denso Japan will continue their series tomorrow night at Firestone Stadium at 7:05 with Rock N Roll 50's night.
For more information you can contact the Racers at (330)376-8188.