Wall walks off WNT in Japan exhibition opener

* Bradi Wall (Swift Current, Sask.) delivered a walk-off double in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon, as the Canadian Women's National Team opened exhibition play in Japan with a 5-4 win over the Japanese National All-Stars. (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

KAZO CITY, Japan - Barely 24 hours removed from a 10-hour plane ride from Vancouver, B.C., and a multi-hour bus trip from Tokyo, the Canadian Women's National Team began their exhibition series in Japan on a high note Sunday afternoon with a 5-4 walkoff win over the 18U Japanese National All-Stars at Heisei International University.

Swift Current, SK's Bradi Wall launched the game-ending blow, a walkoff double to the wall in right field after back-to-back walks were issued to pinch-hitter Ella Matteucci (Fruitvale, B.C.) and second baseman Nicole Luchanski (Edmonton, Alta.) to start the bottom of the seventh inning.

"With Bradi, you know that something is going to happen," Team Canada manager Andre Lachance said. "She rarely strikes out, she puts the ball in play, she got a good ball to hit and it was a shot. That's what happens with Bradi at the plate, or with the middle of our lineup - you bring them to the plate and they're going to do some damage."

In the first of four exhibition games for the squad from north of the border before they head to Miyazaki for the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup, Wall was hoping to make something happen, but on slightly more simple terms.

"My game plan going up to the plate was to move the runners over," the 22-year-old said. "A ground ball to the right side was my plan - get the runners in scoring position and get Steph Savoie (La Pocatiere, QC) up. I knew I had Steph, Cindy [Saavedra] (Toronto, ON) and a bunch of people behind me, so if I could get the runners in scoring position, that was the plan."

Instead, Wall ended the game with the only lead the Canadians took all game.

"It felt great," the squad's shortstop said. "I hit it hard so I knew if [the right fielder] caught it at least the runner would advance from second to third. It felt great and got over her head so I knew I just had to go two. I saw [Luchanski] score so it was good."

The Japanese all-stars got out to an early lead, cashing in three runs in the first inning, thanks to a bases-clearing triple from the squad's No. 6 hitter. Veteran Kate Psota (Burlington, ON) got the Canadians on the board in the first with a one-out RBI-single to left field, her first of two hits on the day.

Heidi Northcott got the ball for the first start of exhibition play for the women's squad. Feeling some wear after the long journey to Japan, the right-hander from Rocky Mountain House, AB went two innings and allowed three runs on two hits with two walks and a strikeout.

"I was a little tired but you just have to get the job done," Northcott said. "I wasn't really hitting the zone today but I got the outs somehow.[Being the team's first starter overseas] is a little bit of pressure but I love the pressure anyways."

Meagan Cornelsson (Grand Prairie, Alta.) took care of the team's early deficit, driving in two runs in the third frame with a two-out double. Vanessa Riopel (Repentigny, Que.) kept the squad in it with three scoreless innings of relief, walking four and hitting one batter but allowing no hits.

"It was not really about winning or losing today," Lachance said. "I told them the most challenging day was probably going to be today, based on past experiences, but they kind of felt okay today after that first game. The energy was not at the level we usually are but we still put the ball in play. There are a couple of things that we need to fine-tune but we are early in our preparation and I'm pleased."

The Japanese high schoolers regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning, plating a leadoff walk after a sacrifice bunt advanced the runner. Wall believes the team's travel may have resulted in a feeling of some wear and tear for the country's visitors, but the game helped start them off on the right foot.

"Jet lag is something that you've always got to get used to," she said. "But getting right into it, practicing in the morning and to hit the ground running was a good thing.it was a great decision and we'll get going."

Competition continues on Monday, with Team Canada's next exhibition matchup slated for midnight EST, and the level of talent the women match up against will increase heading into the World Cup.

"Japan is always a good-hitting team, whether it's the actual Team Japan or high school teams," Wall said. "They're always good calibre and good quality of baseball. Obviously USA, Australia, Japan and a bunch of other teams are going to be a lot harder but it's good that we started off at this level and we'll continue to get the nerves out during pre-World Cup and go from there."

-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis