VIERA, FL – Facing the Beijing Shougang Eagles at USSSA Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida, the Akron Racers supplied plenty of offense, starting with leadoff hitter Ashley Thomas, and starter Emily Weiman locked up the Eagles in the circle to nail down a 9-1 victory on Saturday night.
Weiman tossed a complete game, allowing just one unearned run on four hits, with two walks and three strikeouts. Outside of the third inning, when Beijing scored their run, the Eagles only had two batters on base in an inning once, as Weiman handled the opposing hitters masterfully.
Offensively, Thomas was the consummate table-setter for the Racers, leading off in three different innings and getting on base and scoring a run in each of her four plate appearances. Thomas earned the Vaultz Lock It Up Player of the Game honor for her efforts.
In the top of the first inning Thomas drew a four-pitch walk, after centerfielder A.J. Andrews reached on a bunt single, both runners moved up to second and third base, respectively on a passed ball. Designated player Sami Fagan plated Thomas with a sacrifice fly and Nicole Schroeder singled home Andrews to give Akron a 2-0 lead before Beijing could even come to bat.
Thomas was back at it again in the third inning with a leadoff single. After a Fagan base hit put runners on the corners, left fielder Shellie Robinson and Thomas combined for a perfectly timed squeeze play for the Racers’ third run. Fagan would score to make it 4-0 when left fielder Liu Yi Ning dropped a fly ball off Schroeder’s bat.
Beijing cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning. Pitcher Nancy Bowling kicked off the inning with a walk. Ning then reached on a rare throwing error by Akron third baseman Kelley Montalvo, putting runners on second and third base. When Yuan Huai Ning laid down a bunt in front of home plate, pinch runner Lei Fei Fei beat Thomas’ throw to the plate to cut the score to 4-1.
Thomas led off an inning for the third time in the top of the fifth inning with a single shot back through the middle. Later in the inning Thomas would score her third run of the game when Schroeder blooped a base hit into left field to put Akron ahead 5-1.
In the top of the sixth inning Jennifer Gilbert led off with a walk. One batter later Griffin Joiner followed with a base hit and Megan Geer picked up a bunt single to load the bases. Thomas stepped into the box with the bases loaded and blasted a line drive all the way to the centerfield fence, clearing the bases with a three-run triple. Thomas capped the four-run inning by scoring on an RBI single by Fagan to give the Racers a 9-1 lead.
In total, Thomas went 3-for-3 at the plate with four runs scored and three RBI. Catcher Griffin Joiner matched Thomas with a game-high three hits, including her first career triple. Schroeder had two hits with three RBI, Fagan had two hits with two RBI and a run scored and Andrews had two hits and a run scored.
The Racers will play a doubleheader at Space Coast Stadium tomorrow with the first game against the Eagles set for 5:05 p.m. and the second game against the USSSA Pride at 8:05 p.m., both games will be streamed on NPF TV.
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.