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Firestix stay on top as playoffs approach

The Tampa Bay Firestix split a four-game series at Akron last weekend and dropped a 3-0 makeup game to Virginia on Tuesday.

But Tampa Bay entered its five-game home series with Durham still 2{ games out front in the Women's Pro Softball League standings at 28-21.

Virginia (27-25) is second, and Carolina (24-25) is third. The top three teams make the playoffs with the best regular-season team getting a bye into the championship series.

Akron, Ohio, will host the best-of-three championship series Aug. 27-28.

"It has been tough on the road for us this year, so it will feel great to be on our home turf for five games," Tampa Bay coach Linda Derk said. "A good night's sleep in their own beds will help them get rested for the games with Durham this weekend. It is really nice to be here. When we went to Virginia Tuesday, our players were dog tired."

Monica Triner added a loss and a win in the Akron series, bringing her record to 7-4. Nancy Evans hit a home run in the first game but took the loss 10-8.

Dee Dee Weiman-Garcia recorded the second win for Tampa Bay, going all the way Sunday in a 14-inning game that the Firestix won 3-0.

Weiman-Garcia's marathon pitching victory was in the second game of a doubleheader. The first was rained out Saturday.

She seemed tireless in her pitching duel with the Racers' Carla Brookbank as she allowed only four hits.

The Firestix had 12 hits and several opportunities to put it away but stranded 15 runners.

Outfielder Sara Graziano finally ended it in the 14th with a three-run homer.

Triner allowed only three hits in Friday's 3-0 shutout.

Marty Laudato, the Firestix catcher, continued to maintain her position as the top hitter in the WPSL through Sunday with a .352 average. She had four runs and three RBI in the Akron series.

"We certainly can't let up this close to the end of the season," Derk said. "We have the five-game series with Durham this week and close at home with two games with Georgia. The other 10 regular-season games for us are on the road.

"We will have to stay focused and play each inning and each game one at a time to make it to the playoffs."

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