Savoie lifts Canada to walk-off win in extras
* Thanks to a walk-off hit from Stephanie Savoie, Canada's Women's National Team has advanced to the winners' second round of the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup with a 9-8 extra-inning win over Chinese Taipei. (Photo: Alexis Brudnicki). .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted .... Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
Brudnicki on the road: 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 - Down by five runs with two outs remaining in a high-stakes matchup against Chinese Taipei, the Canadian Women's National Team fought back to secure a spot in the second round of the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup with a 9-8 extra-inning comeback victory.
"It's something that everyone needs to know about Canada," manager Andre Lachance said. "We're never going to let anything go, we never quit and we always battle right to the end. Whoever plays us will have to battle to beat us every single time."
A six-run sixth inning gave Team Canada the only lead it held in the game before they walked it off in the bottom of the eighth, with both offensive outbursts highlighted by key hits from catcher Stephanie Savoie.
The native of La Pocatiere, Que. led off the sixth with a single before driving in two runs in the same frame to put Canada ahead 7-6. Savoie then drove in the game-winning run in the eighth with her third hit of the game.
"That felt great," said the 24-year-old Savoie, who totalled three RBI on the day. "It's amazing. I love to play when the game is a challenge and I think I'm better when there is some pressure. If I have no pressure, I'm good, but I'm better when I have that pressure on my shoulders."
Added Lachance: "That's Steph. You can't ask for a better hitter at the plate. And we had the mentality of going one pitch at a time and one game at a time. Nobody was talking about USA until now, because they're our next opponents, but Taipei was our focus today."
The international tie breaker rule dictates that in extra innings each team may start at whatever point in the batting order they choose, with runners on first and second and none out. Taking the opportunity to sacrifice bunt, anticipating an intentional walk to follow, Lachance was looking for Savoie to do some damage as the third hitter due up in the frame.
"She's our third batter in the lineup and that's how we figured the extra-inning rule," Lachance said. "We wanted her to be there to score the winning run for us. With Bradi [Wall], Steph and Kate [Psota] in the 2-3-4 [spots], we expect contact from them.
"She got a good piece of metal on the ball. They were playing in and she always hits the ball hard, so she made it tough for those guys."
Team Canada's skipper brought leadoff hitter Nicole Luchanski to the plate to start the eighth. The Edmonton, Alta. native laid down a perfect bunt and beat out the throw to first for a single, loading the bases for shortstop Wall. Wall drove in the tying run and kept the bases loaded with none out for Savoie. After overcoming a five-run deficit, one run was nothing for the national squad.
"It felt great to come back," Luchanski said.
Luchanski and Wall (Swift Current, Sask.) each notched two hits and drove in two runs in the game. Psota (Burlington, Ont.), 15-year-old Emma Carr (Toronto, Ont.) and Niki Boyd (Whalley, B.C.) notched a hit apiece, and Kelsey Lalor (Red Deer, Alta.) brought in a run with an RBI walk.
Ranked sixth in the world, Taipei has a history of putting up a big fight against the squad from north of the border, but Tuesday's game at Ivy Stadium topped them all.
"It was a crazy game," manager Andre Lachance said. "But we've had those types of crazy games against them before. Taipei is always tough to play, for whatever reason. We played them back in 2004 and had a hard time, they beat us in 2006 when we had a shot at the gold medal, we had a good win in 2012, but they're always tough.
"They put the ball in play even though they don't hit hard, they don't throw hard, but they always figure out how to score runs. That win was good for the team morale going in to playing USA tomorrow. It brings us to the second round on a positive note."
Luchanski had some early doubts about the way the matchup would end, but the 24-year-old second baseman was able to keep her head in the game as the team built momentum.
"I've been working on my mental game a lot," Luchanski said. "I have the same feeling coming in [to the World Cup] - we're going to lose again, we're going to miss the medal round again - but I've been working on stopping and moving on. You stop, you clear, and move on. Dreadful feelings will come back, but it's a process.
"I had to redo that a lot today because it was a very stressful game, but every time I was able to stop and refocus and move on to the present moment."
A member of Team Canada since 2006, Luchanski ranks Tuesday's game against Taipei among the best she has played with the squad.
"One of the top games," she said. "It doesn't seem like it because it's only the second game of the tournament, but as everyone knows now every game is a must-win. If we didn't win that game, we couldn't win the gold medal. That game was one of the most exciting."
Added Savoie: "The last three innings were so amazing. We just had fun and things started to happen. We know we can play baseball - we can hit the ball, we can throw - we just need to have fun and things happen. We have a great team and that was a great point in the tournament and now we have the momentum. It's good."
Autumn Mills (London, Ont.) got the start for Team Canada and went 4 2/3 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Hannah Martensen (Ottawa, Ont.) came on in relief and in one frame allowed three runs on three hits, walking one and striking out one.
Amanda Asay (Prince George, B.C.) faced one batter and immediately recorded the out, stranding two inherited baserunners. Team Canada starting pitcher Vanessa Riopel came on to close out the game and allowed two runs (one earned) in two innings of work, fanning one batter and recording the win.
The women's squad will wrap up the first round of the World Cup against Team USA at 12:30AM EST Wednesday. With two wins apiece, Canada and USA will advance to the winners' second round of the tournament. 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