* In a hard-fought battle, Team USA came away with an 8-7 walk-off win over Team Canada after two rain delays, five comebacks, 22 total hits and several hours. Canada's next second round opponent is Japan on Friday. (Photo: Alexis Brudnicki). .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted .... Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
Brudnicki on the road: Savoie walk-off beats Taipei .... WNT no-hits Netherlands in opener .... World Cup on deck .... Riopel embraces pressure .... Hits aplenty in final tune-up .... Gilroy eyeing Pan Ams too .... Ace Mills solid in tune-up .... Hannah impresses .... Wall walk off .... Meet the rookies …. Robbie Alomar …. Shawn Green
By Alexis Brudnicki
MIYAZAKI, Japan – There is no better way to describe the Canadian Women’s National Team’s matchup against Team USA on Wednesday than as a hard-fought battle.
Complete with plenty of mud, sweat and tears, the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup game was eventually won by the American squad, an 8-7 walk-off victory after two rain delays, five comebacks, 22 total hits and several hours.
“We never quit,” Canadian manager Andre Lachance said. “I’m proud of my team, the way they show up every day, they fight, they never quit, and they always believe they have a chance. We make it tough on other teams all the time. It’s not just because it was USA, it’s going to be the same against Australia and against Japan.
“Whatever the score is, we’re going to fight until the end.”
Rain threatened to end the game early in the sixth inning, after delaying the first pitch for almost two hours after its scheduled start time. Players were sent to their dugouts with Team USA up 7-6 and the tying run for the Canadian squad on first base with one out.
As soon as the downpour let up and the grounds crew at Sun Marine Stadium hit the field, Team Canada and several volunteers joined in to speed up the process, sponging water off the dirt infield, raking, and drying. The Canadians left an impression on the local fans and media, who gave them an ovation both after tending the field and after the loss.
“That’s our team,” Lachance said. “That’s our country. We didn’t really think about it, it was just a matter of doing it and working together. It shows a lot about our team unity and what we believe needed to be done in that situation. I’m glad we had the support from the fans and they enjoyed it.
“We made the right decision and it was quick. I was surprised that in a half an hour [the field] was ready to go. The team will remember it forever and we made a good impression on the people there. They deserved some help. They already worked once on the field and we didn’t want the game to end that way. A baseball game should never end that way.”
Though the game didn’t end in Canada’s favour, Lachance wanted to be sure his team held their heads high and acknowledged what they could gain from the experience.
“I know it’s hard,” the skipper said as he addressed the team after the game. “We want to win all the time. But I could not be more proud of you guys. The way you were today, the way you worked on the field…you never quit. You have no idea what kind of impression was made with the Japanese people on the field. You made us proud, but you made Canada proud also.”
As the squad from north of the border made their way to their bus to load up their equipment before the ride back to the hotel after the game, a teary-eyed Kazunori Kodama – Team Canada’s bus driver throughout the World Cup – loaded their bags and then asked the team’s translator to pass along a message.
“Great game everyone,” Kodama said in Japanese. “Thank you so much for the very nice game. I was touched. I cried.”
The back-and-forth affair started with a three-run top of the first inning from Team Canada. Second baseman Nicole Luchanski led things off with a single and continued to put pressure on Team USA all game long. The native of Edmonton, Alta. went 2-for-4 with a stolen base and three runs scored and has been a huge factor in Canada’s success throughout her time on the national squad.
“The first time I saw her in 2006 at nationals, I knew right away that I wanted her on the team,” Lachance said. “She was 16 and she was all over the place, diving and dirty and I said, ‘That’s the type of girl we need.’ She’s been here since that first year, in 2006 she was our starting second baseman and she’s been there ever since.
“She’s a sparkplug. She doesn’t say much off the field, but when it’s game time she’s always there and ready to go. You can always count on her.”
Veteran third baseman Ashley Stephenson added two hits and two RBIs in the game, and was the fourth consecutive walk for Team Canada in a three-run fifth inning. The Mississauga, Ont. native was also one of several players who constantly kept the team’s enthusiasm up, always making noise on the field and from the dugout to gain and keep momentum.
“That’s why we carry those leaders with us all the time,” Lachance said. “They have experience and they’ve played USA before. We’re 4-3 against USA in World Cup competition and it’s always a great game when we play them.
“They’ve been there before so they can carry their enthusiasm and excitement and experience to show the rest of the young players. Even by not playing today, those young ones have learned a lot about World Cup games. That’s what it’s all about.”
Left fielder Meagan Cornelssen (Grand Prairie, Alta.), rookie Kelsey Lalor (Red Deer, Alta.) and catcher Stephanie Savoie (La Pocatiere, Que.) each drove in one run for Team Canada on the day. Savoie also walked twice but was most impressive behind the plate, constantly keeping the ball in front of her, framing pitches beautifully and working with the staff.
“We put a lot of emphasis on our defence and like to believe that if we win the error column all the time, we will win more games than we will lose and she did a good job [with] framing today,” Lachance said. “We had Steph at the plate with the bases loaded [in the seventh] and she was the girl we wanted to be there at the time. It didn’t turn out our way, but I am still proud of them.
“I always will be.”
Vanessa Riopel (Repentigny, Que.) got the start for Canada after throwing the final two innings in the team’s previous game against Chinese Taipei on Tuesday. The 24-year-old right-hander went three innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits, with one walk.
Melissa Armstrong (Saskatoon, Sask.) came on in relief and went 1 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits, walking one and striking out one. Amanda Asay (Prince George, B.C.) finished out the game with 1 2/3 frames of work, allowing one run on three hits with one walk, and took the loss.
“We showed our next two opponents that we’re going to show up and play hard,” Lachance said. “I’m sure they saw the game and they’re not too comfortable in playing us. We want them to be uncomfortable and know that anything can happen and that they have to work hard to beat us.”
The women’s squad moves on to the second round of the World Cup tournament and will face Japan on Friday at 5:30AM EST. For all games featuring the Japanese team there is live streaming and it can be found at http://internetv.tv/browse.php.
Stay up to date with the Women's National Team by following @baseballcanada on Twitter.
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis