AKRON, OH – The Akron Racers entered Saturday night needing just one victory to ensure a trip to Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the 2017 NPF Championship Series, designated player Sami Fagan came through with a two-run single to break a tie game and the Racer pitching staff made the lead hold up as Akron defeated the Texas Charge 4-2 on Pink the Park Night at Firestone Stadium.
"I'm glad we're in, they're excited, and we're happy. We're playing for a different reason and we're playing for life,” Racers Field Manager Charlotte Morgan said. “I think sometimes we don't cherish what we're given, so we're playing for life.
“I hope you guys are able to see that and we're able to be some people that these kids and the community can look up to."
Left fielder Kristen Wyckoff got things started for Akron in the bottom of the fifth inning with a one-out single into left field. Centerfielder A.J. Andrews was hit by a pitch, and second baseman Ashley Thomas reached first base and moved Wyckoff to third on a fielder’s choice at Texas shortstop Ruby Rivera. Thomas then stole second, putting two runners in scoring position for Fagan. Lining a single into left field, Fagan drove in both runs, giving Akron a two-run lead, 4-2.
"We're pumped. It's just been a grind all year and we've had our ups and downs but I think that it's really special that we're coming together at the end here,” Fagan said. “I feel like we're peaking at the right time, so we're really excited going into championships."
After Charge pitcher Lauren Haeger reached on an error by Thomas to lead off the top of the sixth inning, Racer pitcher Rachele Fico retired Texas in order to complete her third inning of work. Fico picked up the win allowing one run, on one hit with two strikeouts. Fico now is tied for the team lead with five wins. Akron closer Aimee Creger entered the game in the seventh inning and slammed the door shut, striking out the side to pick up her second save of the season.
Emily Weiman started the game for the Racers and retired the first seven batters she faced on her way to allowing one run in three innings of work.
“I think (Weiman) pitched great,” Racers catcher Griffin Joiner said. “I know we gave up a couple runs there, but I thought she did a great job today. (Fico) came in and really locked in, and (Creger) at the end was just throwing gas.
“All of our pitchers were fantastic, and it’s going to take a team effort like this to win in the Championship Series.”
Joiner helped Akron crack the scoreboard in the second inning, driving in first baseman Nicole Schroeder with a single to centerfield for the first run of the game. Schroeder was moved into scoring position by a single from third baseman Kelley Montalvo who later came around to score on an RBI groundout from Wyckoff to put the Racers ahead 2-0.
Akron saw their two-run lead disappear with two swings of the bat in the fourth inning as Texas fought for their postseason lives. Haeger led off the frame by blasting a home run to straight away centerfield to cut the Racer advantage in half. After Akron replaced Weiman with Fico, third baseman Nadia Taylor greeted Fico by smacking a home run of her own to tie the game.
“I told them I'm not done and we're not going to celebrate, we're not going to get too high, and we're going to come out and play tomorrow,” Morgan said. “It's just as important because we're still getting ready for championships."
The Racers locked up a spot in the Championship Series by knocking the Charge out of contention (22-27) with tonight’s victory. Akron will battle Texas Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale for both teams with first pitch scheduled for 4:05 p.m. at Firestone Stadium. To purchase tickets, contact the Racers Ticket Office at 330-376-8188.
Game Time: 1:51
Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game: Sami Fagan
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.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
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.