DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 26, 2018) – The Aussie Spirit swept a pair of one-run contests on Saturday at the Embry-Riddle Softball Stadium, downing the Beijing Eagles 1-0 and 4-3 (10) to first, snap Beijing’s (5-4) four-game winning streak in the day’s opener, before the Spirit (4-5) began a winning streak of their own in the nightcap.
In the opener, pitching for both sides dominated the game as Beijing’s Wang Lan squared off against a trio of Aussie hurlers, starting with Katie Donovan and followed by Taylor Paige-Stewart and finishing with Monica Perry. The game’s lone run came via a solo home run off the bat of the Spirit’s Tamieka Whitefield in the fifth inning. Whitefield’s blast earned her the Vaultz Lock it Up Player of the Game as she helped the Spirit snap the Eagles’ four-game winning streak.
Both Lan and Donovan worked around one-out singles in the first inning, and Lan was able to strand a pair of runners in the top of the second by fanning Whitefield after a seven-pitch battle.
Beijing’s first real chance to score came in the bottom of the third after a one-out double from Li Huan, followed by a fielding error on a Lui Li Li batted ball that put Eagles on the corners with one away. After Li Li stole second, Victoria Draper popped a ball up to shortstop Stacey McManus and Li Li was caught halfway between second and third, getting Donovan out of the jam with a double play to end the threat.
The Eagles again threatened in the fourth, this time against Stewart who started the inning in relief of Donovan. Chen Jia drew a leadoff walk, but Stewart induced a ground ball double play for the first two outs of the frame. Li Qi kept the inning alive with the second walk of the inning and after Wang Bei singled through the left side, Xu Jia lifted a single to center field that looked destined to score the game’s first run, however a strong throw from Verity Long-Droppert and a fantastic dive by the catcher Belinda White resulted in Qi being called out at home to end the inning.
Whitefield started the fifth by launching an 0-1 pitch down the left field line, just inside the left field foul pole, to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead, and what would prove to be the only run of the contest.
Lan allowed just one more Aussie batter to reach base the rest of the way, but Stewart went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the fifth and Perry, who entered in the sixth, faced the minimum over the final two frames to secure the 1-0 victory for the Spirit.
Stewart (1-1) got the win in 2.0 innings of relief after Donovan went the first three innings without allowing a run. Perry picked up her first save of the 2018 season in two perfect innings of work.
Aussie out-hit Beijing 6-4 with the only player on either team with multiple hits was the Spirit’s Stacey Webber, and the only RBI registered was Whitefield’s game-winning homer.
Aussie struck first in the day’s finale, loading the bases with one out against Beijing’s Zhao Xinxing in the top of the first inning. Xinxing struck out Weber for the frame’s second out, but couldn’t get completely out of the jam as she hit Jessica Torpey with a 2-2 pitch, pushing across a run for the Spirit. Xinxing limited the damage to just one run by getting a weak ground ball back to the circle from Erin Thras to strand the bases loaded and send the game to the bottom of the first.
Perry got the start in the circle for the Spirit, leaving the potential tying run at third in the first, but after the Aussie offense went quietly in the second, the Eagles were able to mount a two-out rally against Perry in their half of the frame, starting when Wang Xioqing singled through the right side of the infield. After Wang Mengyan was hit by a pitch, Li Huan singled back to the circle, and the pinch runner at second Yang Huiqi quickly raced around third and was able to score to tie the game at 1-1 on the infield single.
The Eagles flashed their leather in the third, starting with a fantastic diving catch by Li Qi in left to deny Taylah Tsitsikronis of extra bases before Li Huan made a nice stop at short for out number two before Weber struck out for the final out of the inning.
Beijing loaded the bases in the bottom of the third against the new Aussie pitcher Stewart, forcing the Aussie’s to go to Donovan to try and get the last out of the inning and preserve the 1-1 tie. Donovan entered and despite falling behind Xioqing 3-0, was able to get a harmless ground ball to first to end the threat.
Neither team did much in the fourth and fifth offensively, but the Spirit grabbed a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Jessica Torpey snuck a single past the outstretched glove of Beijing’s shortstop Huan with Long-Droppert at third base after the Aussie center fielder doubled with one out before moving to third on a wild pitch. Emily Watson, who had pitched scoreless fourth and fifth innings for the Eagles, was able to strikeout Erin Thras to end the inning, but the damage was already done as Aussie took a one-run lead into the bottom of the inning.
Beijing caught a break in the last of the sixth as the Eagles were able to knot things up with an unearned run. After Xu Qianwen singled to start the inning, Xioqing moved her up to second with a sacrifice bunt, and a fielding error at first allowed pinch hitter Zhang Yan to reach first and put runners at the corners with one out. Amelia Cudicio came in to relieve Donovan, getting the second out of the inning before a 1-0 pitch to Liu Mengmeng went high, allowing the tying run to score. Cudicio eventually retired Mengmeng to send the game to the seventh, tied at 2-2.
The Spirit nearly retook the lead in the top of the seventh, putting the potential go-ahead run at third with two outs, but Watson was able to get Carmelle Sorensen to ground out to second to end the inning.
After Victoria Draper started the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single for Beijing, Cudicio was able to send the game to extras by retiring the next three batters in order.
The Spirit took their third lead of the game in the eighth as Torpey collected her third RBI of the contest with a single down the left field line, scoring Long-Droppert from second after Long-Droppert singled with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Chelsea Robinson that was misplayed by Xiaoqing at first. Watson got the last two outs of the inning, but the Eagles went into their last at-bat down 3-2.
The Eagles took advantage of a big two-out error in the bottom of the inning as Xu Jie reached first to keep the Beijing hopes alive and Cudicio surrendered back-to-back singles to Huan and Li Li, the latter of which went to left and when Thras the Aussie left fielder threw the ball in, she threw it wide, allowing Jie to scamper home to tie the game at 3-3. Cudicio sent the game to the ninth by getting a fly out from pinch hitter Xu Jia.
Both teams went quiet in the ninth and with the tenth inning, the international tie-breaker came into affect. Robinson delivered a sac bunt to move Long to third to start the 10thand Torpey came through once again with his fourth RBI of the contest, a sacrifice fly to center that accounted for the final run of the day and a 4-3 lead for the Spirit.
Cudicio left the potential tying run at third after a sac bunt from Xiaoqing pushed Qianwen just 90 feet away, by getting Jie and then Huan to fly out to end the game.
Cudicio (1-1) got the win in 4.2 innings of work, while Angel Bunner (2-2) was tagged with the loss after working the ninth and tenth innings for the Eagles.
Torpey was named the game’s Vaultz Lock it Up Player of the Game thanks to her 2-for-3 effort with four RBIs.
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 Aussie Spirit, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2018 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.