Allentown, Pa. The Philadelphia Force completed a season-ending doubleheader with a sweep of the Akron Racers by scores of 3-1 in 10 innings, and 4-0.
The Force (31-17) will next compete in Kimberly, Wisconsin at the 2008 NPF Championships.
With the defeats, the Racers have been eliminated from the playoff chase.
Game one was the definition of a pitcher’s duel. In the first nine innings, neither team could push a run across the ECTB Stadium plate.
In the 10th inning, the International Tie Breaker was used.
The Racers (19-29) did get a run in the top of the 10th. Norelle Dickson was the runner placed on second base to start the inning. Margo Pruis, who had a career game in the circle, got Kristen Butler on strikes for the first out. But Susan Ogden finally drove in the game’s first run with a single to left field.
Only down one run and with Chelsea Spencer starting the inning at second base, the Force would be ready to claim their third straight extra-inning, walk-off win. The first batter of the inning, Savannah Long, laid down a bunt. The Racers were quick to the ball and turned to make a play on Spencer going to third, but the problem for the Racers was that Spencer did not go to third on the play. Thus Long was safe at first on the fielder’s choice. The next batter was Jenna Hall and she would end the ballgame. Hall connected on her third home run of the season to make Force 3-1 winners in game one of the doubleheader.
Pruis (5-4) went all 10 innings for the Force allowing just the one unearned run. She allowed two hits and struck out seven batters.
The hard-luck loser for the Racers was Jamee Juarez (0-7). She is credited with nine innings and five hits. Juarez struck out four batters and two of her runs were unearned.
In the night cap, the Force got on the board in the third inning. Amy Hudson hit a clean single through the right side off of Racers starter Angela Tincher.Emily Friedman followed with a base on balls. With runners at first and second, Sharonda McDonald lined out to left field for the inning’s first out. After the pitch to McDonald, the coaches for Akron went out to the circle and Tincher, who appeared to have something in her eye. The Racers called upon Radara McHugh to face Trena Peel and she hit Peel with a pitch to load the bases. Chelsea Spencer drove in Hudson with a sacrifice fly and the Force had the early 1-0 lead for their starter Katie Burkhart.
The Force added another run in the fourth inning. Megan Gibson lined a rocket to left field that rolled under the fence for a ground-rule double. Kristen Miller followed with a base hit up the middle that scored Gibson, and the Force was up 2-0. On the play. Miller moved up on the throw home. An infield ground out moved the catcher up to third base. Emily Friedman reached on an error that scored the third Force run. Another throwing error on the Racers infield put runners on second, Sharonda McDonald, and third with two outs. Trena Peel kept the rally going with an infield single to score Friedman and move McDonald to third base. At this point, McHugh was replaced by Juarez, who earlier in the day pitched nine full innings. The Racers got out of the inning when McDonald was caught at the plate trying to score on a pitch that only slightly got away at the plate. But the damage had already been done, and the Force lead 4-0 after four complete.
A great crowd of 1,263 was on hand for the doubleheader which served as a terrific sendoff for the Force as they make their first ever playoff appearance.
Burkhart tossed the first five innings for the Force. She only allowed one base hit during her time in the circle. The ArizonaState rookie added five strikeouts to her season total. She finished the year with 149 strikeouts. Her strikeout total and 131.2 innings pitched are new Force team records.
Jodie Cox entered for the Force to pitch the season’s final two innings.
On Thursday morning, the Force will board a plane enroute to Kimberly. Their final seeding for the double-elimination tournament is still to be determined. Please check www.philadelphiaforce.com and the league’s website www.profastpitch.com for all things related to the 2008 NPF playoffs.
For all of us at the Philadelphia Force, we like to thank all of our fans for a great 2008 regular season. But the Force are not done. They still have one goal left and that is to bring home a championship to the LehighValley!