Thomas leads Canada’s hit attack at ISF softball tourney

Canada’s national team earned its third win at the ISF Junior Women’s World Softball Championship tournament with a come from behind 7-1 win over New Zealand on the weekend in South Africa.

Carey-Leigh Thomas of Ohsweken paced the 10-hit Canadian offence with three hits including a homerun. Jennifer Gilbert of Saskatoon was two-for-four with a grand slam and four runs batted in. Victoria Hayward (Toronto) added two hits. Brantford’s Erika Polidori had a single.

Canada now has a record of 3-1 after losing its first game to the United States.

Canada spotted New Zealand a 1-0 second inning lead as winning pitcher Karissa Hovinga (Edmonton) gave up two of the three hits she allowed in the game during the inning. Hovinga was sharp in the pitcher’s circle as she controlled the game allowing only three hits while striking out seven and not allowing a walk. New Zealand had only three runners left on base.

New Zealand’s run came with two out when a line drive single dropped just in front of left fielder Polidori allowing a base runner to score.

After a scoreless third, Canada got back on even terms with New Zealand with two outs in the fourth. Thomas hit a line drive well over the center field fence to give Canada its first run of the game.

In the top of the fifth, New Zealand made a pitching change and Larissa Franklin (Maple Ridge, BC) was walked to lead off the inning. She was thrown out at second after Gilbert laid down a bunt. Hayward slapped a single up the middle advancing Gilbert to second, before Polidori grounded out but moved both runners ahead. Gilbert scored on a passed ball to give Canada the lead.

Canada broke the game open with five runs in the top of the sixth. Natalie Wideman (Mississauga) drilled a single to right field to get things started, Thomas singled to centre and Shannon Davidson’s sacrifice bunt was dropped at first base allowing Wideman to score with Davidson and Thomas moving up to second and third. Pinch hitter Taylor Beck (Vancouver) drew a walk to load the bases and Franklin was reentered to replace her on the bases. Gilbert then fouled off three full count pitches and finally hit a monster homerun that landed over the center field fence for a grand slam.

Thomas got her third hit of the day in the seventh on a soft liner to right field but was stranded at first. Hovinga got the first out in the bottom of the seventh but gave up New Zealand’s third hit – a ball that went over Polidori’s head in left field. Polidori overthrew the relay person but Noble went to the ball in time to relay her throw to Thomas at third, who made the tag for the second out. Hovinga ended the game with her seventh strikeout.