Katie Burkhart traveled and played all over the world, including Japan and Italy, before she retired from softball last season.
Unfortunately for the Racers, the left-handed pitcher is back and came in relief to get the victory as the Carolina Diamonds defeated the Racers 7-4 in National Pro Fastpitch action Sunday at Pink the Park Day at Firestone Stadium.
Burkhart (8-6) came in relief of starter Morgan Melloh, who lasted just two innings and gave up four runs and three hits, holding the Racers to no runs on three hits in her five innings on the pitching rubber.
“Today it so happened that they needed me to come in,” Burkhart said. “[This] was a big game and we knew we could and needed to win it.”
It was a swing win for the Diamonds and another lost weekend for the Racers, who needed to win three of the four in the series to jump ahead of the Diamonds into third place.
Instead, the Racers are 13-19 and 1½ games behind the Diamonds in the NPF standings in a season of underachievement, given the public proclamation by Racers president Joey Arrietta during the season opener this group might be one of the best teams in Akron history.
The lack of consistent run-producing hitters in the lineup has been an issue throughout the season.
In the loss, the top three spots in the batting order failed again to set up the middle of the order with scoring opportunities, going a combined 1-for-11 at the plate.
Kelley Montalvo, the spark plug Racers third baseman who had two hits, including a three-run home run, admitted the team has lacked consistency.
“It is that key play or hit that will get that fire under our butts,” Montalvo said. “Whether it is a diving catch or big hit, we haven’t made that big play.”
Kristina Thorson lasted just 3⅔ innings, giving up five runs on six hits, including a two-run home run in the second inning to Amanda Kamekona.
Hillary Bach, who may have mistakenly been charged with the loss, pitched well in relief until GiOnna DiSalvatore hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
Lisa Modglin was spectacular defensively for the Racers, taking away a home run from Natalie Villarreal in the second inning and an extra base hit from Bianca Mejia in the fifth.
Brianna Hesson hit a solo home run in addition to Montalvo’s homer in the four-run fourth.
The Racers play the USSSA Florida Pride in a four-game series that begins Thursday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.