* LHP Claire Eccles (Surrey, BC) pitched four scoreless innings allowing three hits, walking one and hitting one as Canada was edged 6-5 by Australia. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
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By Alexis Brudnicki MIYAZAKI, Japan - With both teams set to play for bronze at the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup on Sunday in Miyazaki, Team Australia and the Canadian Women’s National Team met in a preview matchup on Saturday, the Aussies walking off the squad from north of the border 6-5 in extra innings.
The back-and-forth affair remained scoreless through 4 1/2 innings, with a stellar performance from rookie Canadian southpaw Claire Eccles overshadowed by the late-inning run scoring. The 16-year-old native of Surrey, BC came out and impressed against the Australian lineup, stranding the bases loaded in the first inning and adding five groundouts on balls hit right back to the mound.
“That’s the Claire we saw at the national championships,” manager Andre Lachance said. “She threw her curveball for strikes, she threw a lot of strikes, and that was the big difference versus her performance during our exhibition games.
“She was outstanding. I have only positive things to say about her. If she becomes stronger in the years to come she is going to continue to be an awesome pitcher for us, no doubt.”
After a relief appearance and a one-inning start during Team Canada’s exhibition series in Japan before the World Cup competition began, Eccles felt as though she had gotten all of the nerves out, with her feelings shifting into only excitement.
“I was just excited to get my first start at the World Cup,” Eccles said. “This is my first year so I wanted to make a good impression.I wasn’t [nervous] this time, just extremely excited.
“I was nervous the first game I pitched and then that didn’t go so well. Then when I got my chance to start in the other exhibition game I was just nervous because I didn’t want the same thing to happen again. After that I was just fine and I started getting used to it.”
Heading into the matchup, the game plan was for the young left-hander to just throw a couple of frames with her performance determining the length of her outing.
“[Pitching coach] Christian [Chenard] said I would go two innings, two to three, depending on how I did,” Eccles said. “If I was struggling, he was going to put Heather [Healey] in earlier, and he said if I was doing really well I would go four, and I went four.I was happy. I wish I could have struck someone out, but I didn’t allow any runs so I was happy with that.”
The rookie lefty completed four innings and did not allow a run, giving up just three hits, walking one and hitting one batter.
“I don’t like when I walk people, so the fact that I only walked one person I was happy with,” Eccles said. “It sucked that I hit that batter on an 0-2 count. I wasn’t happy about that. But I’m happy that I put the ball in play and we were able to get outs easily.”
Lachance was happy to see progression from Eccles, even in just the short duration of the team’s trip to Japan. The skipper was impressed in her demeanor on the mound and the fact that she allowed her team to help her out, reminiscent of the performance in Surrey, BC that earned her a spot on the roster.
“I think she was a little bit [nervous] but she was better because she had been there before,” Lachance said. “She was the same Claire as nationals, throwing strikes, and she had confidence in the defence behind her. That’s the type of attitude she should have because with our team we have a good defence.”
On Saturday against Australia, however, it was Team Canada’s bats that kept the squad in the game. Kate Psota (Burlington, Ont.) opened Canada’s side of the scoring with a run in the sixth inning to tie the game at one. Autumn Mills (London, Ont.) added a pinch-hit RBI-single in the same frame to give the Canadian women their first advantage.
Bradi Wall (Swift Current, Sask.) led the offensive charge with four hits in the game, driving in the go-ahead run to start extra innings and scoring one of her own. Stephanie Savoie (La Pocatiere, Que.) went 3-for-5 with a big two-run single in a three-run eighth inning and a run scored.
“Bradi was outstanding,” Lachance said. “Steph was great. [Ashley Stephenson] did a good job at third. Everyone did a good job today and they were swinging the bats well.”
Healey (Paradise, Nfld.) came on in relief in the fifth and in one inning of work she allowed one unearned run on two hits. Cindy Saavedra (Toronto, Ont.) threw three innings out of the bullpen and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits, walking one. Melissa Armstrong (Saskatoon, Sask) took the loss after coming on in the ninth and allowing one unearned run on one hit without recording an out.
Facing Team Australia again in the bronze-medal matchup on Sunday morning local time and Saturday at 9:00PM EST, Lachance believes his team just needs to make the routine plays that they work on day in and day out in order to bring home their fourth bronze in six World Cups, adding to one silver finish.
“I’m always back to defence,” Lachance said. “We need to make the fundamental plays. We need to make sure that every time they give us opportunities to have outs we need to make those outs. It’s going to be the same thing tomorrow.”
Stay up to date with the Women's National Team by following @baseballcanada on Twitter.
Roster Schedule Photo Album IBAF Women's World Cup website