Thursday will mark the first Playoff appearance for the inaugural NY/NJ Comets who took over the Carolina Diamonds after last season. Akron Racers players and fans are hoping it’s their only appearance! The recently changed playoff format puts the 3rd (Racers) and 4th (Comets) seeded teams against each other for a winner takes all battle. The following day the winner will play the 2nd seed (Pride) in the days first game, which is again is a winner advances, loser is finished format. The late game Friday night will feature the surviving low seed against the top seed, the Bandits. The final round will be a traditional best-of-3 round to be finished on Saturday.
The two glaring changes in the Championship Series, which last year was controversially cancelled due to weather, are no more first round series and the top team is automatically in the final. In order to increase competitiveness in the regular season the top team is now rewarded an automatic bid into the finals. No longer are there two separate first round 3-game series with the winners vying for the trophy.
In case the weather doesn’t cooperate again, Sunday has been reserved for a makeup day.
The Racers hope to continue and exceed the courageous but disappointing series from last year in Chicago. That series saw the Racers steal a win from Cat Osterman and the Pride and to tie it at one game a piece. The following day the Racers were full of confidence after hitting Osterman hard and forcing her out of the game in the first inning, only to be sent home with one swing of the bat. That swing was a 3-run homer that gave the Pride the deciding runs in a 9-7 victory in the 6th inning.
Although the Racers have had tons of success against the Comets this year, they certainly have had their headaches as well! After taking the first eight games of the season against the Comets they have dropped five of the last eight. All five losses being at home. The season series has featured eight blowouts, the Racers being winners of six of them, a Racers walk-off courtesy of Charlotte Morgan, but also three pitching duels courtesy of Lisa Norris and Olivio Galati. I fully expect the rookie to pitch for the Comets, and hope that the Racers can shake up the rookie early. It just depends on what Akron teams hows up considering she has shut them out and they have also rocked her for many runs.
The good thing is the Racers have options when it comes to the mound, and most of the lineup has been very successful against the Comets! Lisa Norris has pitched extremely well over many innings against the Comets, going 2-1 with a 1.81 ERA, walking only 11 while sitting down 24 on strikes. Through only 11.1 innings though Brittany Mack has shut down the Comets most effectively. She is 2-0 striking out 9 and only giving two free passes while only allowing one run! Fico is another great option with a 4-0 record and a 2.72 ERA pitching against the Comets. All of these starting pitchers have been followed up by some effective pitching from Jen Mineau out of the bullpen.
It’ll be interesting to see which way Phillips goes, and whether Lisa is 100% yet. If she is he could opt to wait and use her in a possible Pride matchup in the second round or go with his veteran to start the playoffs.
At the plate the Racers are on fire against Comet pitching, led by Kaylyn Castillo’s .361 BA with 2 homers, 8 RBI’s, 9 runs and 12 walks. The Racers also have Schlopy, Morgan, Paculba, and Karino hitting over .300! Taylor seems to find the plate a lot, ont op of her 2 homers, 11 RBI’s, 9 walks and 6 SB she has scored an incredible 17 times! Considering she is hitting .333 in front of Charlotte Morgan’s 3 homers and 15 RBI’s it makes it pretty easy. Morgan has also scored 8 times and walked 9, while hitting .326. Karino and Paculba are hitting .342 and .306 respectively against the Comets with 16 runs between the two of them. Throw in a .290 BA with 9 homers, 25 RBI’s, 20 runs, and 18 walks between Brigette Del Ponte and Sam Marder and you have a very good chance of advancing into the second round.
The Racers move into Thursday with a big season ending victory over the Comets 9-2. In the scheme of things that win may prove to be the biggest, the one that got the ball rolling…
“All around it gives people confidence and that’s what you want going into championships, especially against a team we’re going to face in the first game.”
~ Charlotte Morgan
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