* Heidi Northcott (pictured) and Cindy Saavedra combined for a no-hitter as Canada's Women's National Team scored an 11-0 mercy win over the Netherlands in their opening game of the 2014 Women's Baseball World Cup in Japan. (Photo: Alexis Brudnicki). .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted .... Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
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By Alexis Brudnicki
MIYAZAKI, Japan - The Canadian Women's National Team wanted to make an impression in the first game of the Women's Baseball World Cup in Miyazaki and that's exactly what they did.
Team Canada came out firing in the tournament's first matchup against the Netherlands, scoring 11 runs in the first inning and eventually taking the game 11-0 in a five-inning mercy at Ivy Stadium. Heidi Northcott and Cindy Saavedra combined for a no-hitter, while veteran first baseman Kate Posta led the offensive charge with two hits in the opening frame, driving in four runs for the home team.
"We did an awesome job today," Northcott said. "It doesn't get much better than that. With the defence behind me, it's easy to pitch, but honestly the offence is what really makes it easier. Going out into the second inning and having 11 runs already, all the nerves are gone and there's no pressure anymore."
The native of Rocky Mountain House, Alta. got the start for the squad from north of the border and impressed on the mound, baffling a Netherlands lineup for four innings and not allowing a ball out of the infield. Northcott walked three and notched five strikeouts on the day.
"The plan was just to throw strikes and let them get themselves out basically," the 21-year-old right-hander said. "I had a couple more strikeouts than I thought would happen but that was it."
Added Team Canada manager Andre Lachance: "Heidi is at her best when she keeps the ball low in the strike zone. [Pitching coach] Chris Chenard has been working with her to make sure she understands she's got a good defence behind her and when she pitches to contact she finds success. She accomplished the goal of today."
The women's squad also had a chance to get over some early tournament nerves with the quick lead allowing for Lachance to mix up the lineup a little bit for different players to get a feel for what playing in a World Cup competition is like.
"It was good, and that's why we made the changes throughout the game," the team's skipper said. "We wanted most of our players to get their first World Cup experience here in Miyazaki. We've been working hard the last couple of days to make sure that we make contact on a regular basis and we found success today. Hopefully it's going to keep on going against Chinese Taipei tomorrow."
Every Team Canada starter reached base safely at least once in the game, with Psota's pair of two-run singles highlighting the big first frame. Veteran third baseman Ashley Stephenson (Mississauga, Ont.), who, along with Psota, is playing in her sixth World Cup as a member of the squad since its inception in 2004, and rookie Kelsey Lalor (Red Deer, Alta.) each drove in two runs.
"That was really good," Psota said of the team's offensive outburst. "Everyone's getting the nerves out and it's good to get on base early and score some runs. That was definitely a positive for us today."
The native of Burlington, Ont. is excited for what the current team can do, with each tournament squad building upon what the last has done over the 10 years she's been on the roster.
"We are very well-rounded this year," Psota said. "We have a lot of depth that maybe we haven't had in the past and definitely more speed. Hitting-wise we've just been getting stronger and stronger. Every year we start at a better level than we started at in previous years because we've kept the core group together for so long that we are just able to expand on what we've already done."
Saavedra came on in the fifth inning to close the game out for Team Canada and the Toronto native allowed one walk, striking out the side to secure the victory.
"In the first game there are always some nerves, so it's good to get that one out of the way and now we can focus on Chinese Taipei tomorrow," Lachance said. "We hit the ball well and had a big first inning with 11 runs and after that it was all Heidi and Cindy."
The women's team will face Chinese Taipei at 10PM EST Monday before wrapping up the first round of pool play with a game against Team USA. The top two teams from the pool will advance. Live scoring for all games can be found on the IBAF website.
Stay up to date with the Women's National Team by following @baseballcanada on Twitter.
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis