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WPCNR PRESS BOX. Special to WPCNR from Jen Carlo, Akron, Ohio. (Edited) August 25, 2004, UPDATED 8/26, 9 :00 A.M. E.D.T.: The first ever National Pro Fastpitch Championship kicked off its inaugural season's semifinal series today at Firestone Stadium at Akron, Ohio. In the first contest of the night, the second place Akron Racers (37-23) faced off against the NY/NJ Juggernaut (37-23). Both teams finished with identical records, but the Racers edged out the Juggernaut in head-to-head record during regular season play which awarded them second place. The Nauts won, 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Kellie Wilkerson in the fourth that narrowly missed being a three-run homer, and a rip up the middle by Venus Taylor in the sixth for an insurance run. It was a game that had everything a big ball game has: great defensive plays. Timely hitting, and masterful clutch pitching by the A- Arm, Amanda Scott. The Blonde Who Rules the World pitched a 3-hitter. In the nightcap Playoff, Texas defeated New England, 4-1. For the story on the Thunder win, go to http://profastpitch.com/news/?id=6093 The Amazing A: Number 36 had the bigtime fastball crackling at 65 Miles Per hour, backed by a change-up of 47 miles an hour measured in the 6th inning on the JUGS Gun that kept the Racers idling the entire game in Wednesday night's opener. Photo, Courtesy, NY-NJ Juggernaut.
The game started out as a pitching duel between the Juggernaut's Amanda Scott (1-0), the league leader in regular season wins with 15, and the Racer's Brandee McArthur (12-7) (0-1). The game remained scoreless until the Nauts bats came alive in the fourth inning behind Scott's 9 strikeout performance.
Lauren Bauer (3-for-4) led the Juggernaut offense on their way to take the lead in the series. The Kel Kills 'Em: Kellie Wilkerson beat the Racers with her bat on a blast to deep right in the fourth (after a bunt attempt) that Trina Peel robbed her of a home run on, and the hustling, heady Lyndsey Klein tagged up and scored from second on the catch for a 1-ZIP lead. Then Kellie robbed Dena Degan of tying single in the last of the fourth by a shoestring catch "snow-cone" in the bottom of the inning. Akron Manager Judy Martino argued vehemently the ball was trapped. Sportscasters on the scene agreed it was a catch. File Photo, Courtesy, NY-NJ Juggernaut.
The Juggernaut's first run came off a sacrifice fly by Kellie Wilkerson (0 for 0) as she sent the Racer's right fielder Peel through the outfield fence to bring the ball back into the park. A two-base tag up on the play by Lyndsey Klein (1-for-3) put the Juggernaut up 1-0 in the top of the fourth. An incredible piece of baserunning. According to the play-by-play, Klein was able to score because Peel having fallen through the fence was unable to get up to make a relay. Judy Martino, Akron manager argued vehemently on the play that Klein should have been held to third.
The Juggernaut put the pressure on the Racers once again in the top of the sixth inning. Wilkerson drew a walk to lead off the inning. Pinch hitter Lisa Iancin, with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, advanced the runner into scoring position. Venus Taylor (1-for-3) pushed across the second run for the Juggernaut with a single up the middle, plenty of insurance for Scott, the Nauts ace.
The Racer's final threat (only the second of the game) came in the bottom of the seventh inning after a
single by Peel (2-for-3). Akron looked to Heather Wright (0 for 2) to keep the rally alive. But the Juggernaut quickly quieted the Racers by ending the inning, and the game, with a double play.
The Nauts played flawless defense in the game, including a diving catch by right fielder Kellie Wilkerson with two outs and two runners on base to prevent the game being tied or possibly had Kellie missed the ball, gone ahead.
There was also strong game catching by Amanda's sister, Courtney Scott, who strategized against Iyhia McMichael, the league's leading hitter beautifully.
The Juggernaut will look to eliminate the possibility of a Game 3 tomorrow against the Racers, which would allow them to advance directly to the Championship Series. The game will be played at Firestone Stadium in Akron , Ohio . The game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Probable starters are Kaci Clark for the Nauts and Nikki Myers for the Racers. The game will be netcast worldwide on www.npf.prosportsradio.com. beginning at 5:45 P.M. E.D.T. The Graceful Grandstand of Historic Firestone Stadium, Akron, Ohio, built 1925: Site of the NPF Playoff & Championship Series. The Stadium recalls ball from a bygone era with warm cozy concrete, jury box bleachers and a churchlike atmpsphere. The Juggernauts need a win Thursday to go to the Championship Series. Photo Capture from The Charles E. Phipps Company website, Renovators of the Stadium.
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