Stratford, CONN - The Connecticut Brakettes snapped a four-game losing streak, defeating the Chinese National Team 3-1 Wednesday night. Sarah Pauly led the way again for the Brakettes from the mound, throwing seven quality innings, getting stronger as the game went on. She finished with four strikeouts, and held China to three hits and two walks.
China got on the board early, as centerfielder Li Huan led off the game with a single. With one out, shortstop Li Chunxia crushed a triple to right-center, scoring Huan. Xin Minhong then walked, but was thrown out trying to swipe second base by Callie Piper. Piper threw out another runner in the fifth inning, and has thrown out four of five would-be base stealers this season. Only Zhou Yi, who stole second in the sixth, has been successful stealing off of Piper. A groundout by Wu Di to second baseman Stephanie Best ended the threat, stranding Chunxia at third.
With one out in the second inning, Germaine Fairchild showed her triple crown form, drilling a 3-1 pitch for her first homer of the year. A shot to dead center, it was Germaines fifth hit in her last ten at bats, and tied the score at 1-1.
After the score became knotted, both Pauly and her Chinese counterpart, Zhou Yin, buckled down. Yin, just 18 years old, seemed strong until the fifth inning. After getting Piper to fly out to center, Yin gave up a walk to Kelly Kretchman. Stephanie Best struck out, bringing up Kellie Wilkerson with two outs. Wilkerson hit a high-hopper over Yins head, and Chunxia tried to get the force at second. It was ruled an infield single, and everyone was safe. Yin then got Jessica Merchant to strike out on a wild pitch, but Merchant took first base as the ball sailed to the backstop. Fairchild came up in another big situation, and worked a walk to push in the go-ahead run. Aimee Minor also walked with the bases loaded, driving in the insurance run, and extending the lead to 3-1.
That knocked the young pitcher out of the game for China, but Zhou Yin did not disappoint. In 4 2/3 innings, she gave up just four hits and struck out four. After Yin departed, Julie Brooks lined out to second baseman Sun Li, whose diving catch saved a few more runs.
Pauly worked a relatively easy sixth, and a 1-2-3 seventh inning to record her fifth win of 2006. She improved to 5-2, as the Brakettes moved to 8-5 in NPF standings. The seventh might not have gone as smoothly, however, if not for a remarkable diving catch by Kretchman in center. Minhong nailed a pitch off Pauly to the left side of center. Kretchman got a great jump on the ball, and with a full-extension dive, robbed Minhong of what would have been at least a double.
China dropped their first game of their North American tour, and fell to 3-1 vs. NPF teams. Prior to beating Connecticut Tuesday night, China swept two games from the Philadelphia Force over the weekend.
The Brakettes will host China again Thursday night at 7:05 at DeLuca HOF Field in Stratford, CT.