They did it the hard way, but the Aussie Spirit made it back-to-back NPF wins with a thrilling extra-inning win over the Cleveland Comets at the Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City.
With scores tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Stacey McManus hit a run-scoring double to give the Spirit a hard-earned victory.
The win was fitting reward for some outstanding pitching, particularly by Aussie Spirit starter Jordan Taylor, who was perfect through four innings.
The Aussie Spirit now have a win-loss record of 8-22 in their debut season in the National Pro Fastpitch league. Tomorrow they go back to their home base at Missouri Western University for another game against the Comets.
In the other NPF game played today, the USSSA Pride beat the Chicago Bandits 3-1 at Space Coast Stadium in Florida.
Game 29: Aussie Spirit 2, Cleveland Comets 1
The Aussie Spirit got off to a flying start when leadoff batter Stacey Porter launched a solo home run in the first inning. When Shannon Keevers followed with a single and Taylah Tsitsikronis walked, this looked like being a run feast.
But that turned out to be a long way from the truth. After her shaky first inning, Cleveland starting pitcher Gretchen Aucoin was brilliant, not allowing another run despite pitching all the way through eight innings.
Aussie Spirit starter Jordan Taylor, who had pitched the final two innings of the previous game, picked up from where she left off, not allowing a base-runner in four innings.
In fact, the Spirit had a combined perfect game going until reliever Amelia Cudicio walked Shellie Robinson to lead off the seventh inning.
A dazzling piece of fielding by Porter cut Robinson down at second on an attempted sacrifice bunt, putting the Spirit two outs away from a combined no-hitter and a win. But another walk, followed by an RBI single from Jade Rhodes, tied the game.
With Ellen Roberts now pitching for the Aussie Spirit, the Comets could not add to their score in two extra innings. But in the bottom of the ninth, the Spirit broke through for their first run since the first inning.
Jade Wall led off with a walk, was sacrificed to second by Clare Warwick, then scored when Stacey McManus hit a deep fly ball that left fielder Yuan Huaining chased down but could not hold on to, allowing Wall to score the winning run.
It was the second extra-base hit of the game for McManus, who tripled in the fourth inning and was thrown out at home trying to score what would have been an inside-the-park home run.
Player of the Game: Stacey McManus
With a triple that was almost an inside-the-park home run, then a walk-off RBI double, it was an eventful game for McManus.
After the winning hit, she was interviewed by NPF TV.
“I had an opportunity two innings earlier to do the same thing,” she said. “So to get back in there and actually do the job this time was pretty good.”
McManus paid tribute to the Spirit’s pitchers. “So good. For Jordan to come out there and throw a no-hitter to start off with, then Mim came in and did some work, spun the ball really well and got us some outs, and Elle just came in and shut it down really well.”
McManus said the team had been revitalised by the recent additions of Stacey Porter, Jade Wall and Ellen Roberts.
“It’s been really good. You can tell our team has lifted and we’re more energised. They’re three quality players that have come into the team.”
McManus said the team had learned some lessons from tight games such as this one. “We’ve just got to keep going. One run’s not enough. We scored one in the first inning and couldn’t score again until just then. We’ve just got to keep putting runs on the board consistently and we’ll get out of it a lot easier.”