Canada holds on to second in ISF softball title hunt

At the ISF IX Junior Women’s World Champions in Cape Town, the Canadian national team started off a little slow but scored nine runs in the top of the fifth enroute to a 12-3 run-rule win against China.

The win left Canada in second place in their division with a 5-1 record behind the USA (5-0). Canada will play the Czech Republic (3-2) in its last preliminary round game.

Victoria Hayward (Toronto) led Canada’s 12-hit attack by going three-for-four with six runs batted in, including a grand slam homerun. Starting pitcher Karissa Hovinga (Edmonton) went four innings, only giving up two hits, to pick up the win.

Canada got off to a good start, scoring once in the first inning. With two outs, Erika Polidori (Brantford) hit a shallow fly ball that dropped in for a single down the left field line, Carey-Leigh Thomas (Ohsweken) walked and Natalie Wideman (Mississauga) hit a ground ball through the left side of the infield to score Polidori. Shannon Davidson (Whitby, ON) lined out to center field to end the inning.

China got that run back in the bottom of the inning as they led off with a single and Canada’s shortstop Davidson bobbled a ground ball and threw the ball past Kristy Noble (Uxbridge) at second to allow the first Chinese run to score. Hovinga then walked the next batter and with runners on second and third, catcher Natalie Wideman tried to pick off the runner at third and the throw got past third baseman Thomas. Left fielder Erika Polidori was covering on the play and made a perfect throw to Wideman at the plate to get the runner out at home. Hovinga struck out the next batter to end the inning.

After a scoreless second inning, Canada threatened in the top of the third. With one out, Hayward beat out a drag bunt, and with two out, Thomas drilled a single to left field, moving Hayward over to third. However, with two runners on, the next batter struck out swinging. In their half of the third, China drew a walk but the runner was quickly retired by Wideman when the base runner attempted to steal second base.

Canada took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. With one out, Noble singled up the middle, Tessa Loewen (Abbotsford, BC) hit a slap to third and China tried to force Noble at second but the ball was dropped and both Noble and Loewen were safe. Jennifer Gilbert (Saskatoon) hit a hard shot to the Chinese second baseman who could not handle it as Canada loaded the bases. With two outs, Hayward lined a single to center, scoring Noble and Loewen, and advanced to second on the throw to home. With two on, Thomas hit a hard ground ball to short but was thrown out at first. In China’s half, they were able to get a one out double, but Hovinga forced a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning.

In the fifth, Canada sent 13 batters to the plate and scored nine times to take a big 12-1 lead. With one out, Davidson drew a walk, Noble drilled a line drive to center and Loewen walked to load the bases. Brigitte Aizprua (Terrebonne, QC) hit a single to left-center field scoring Canada’s first two runs of the inning. Gilbert was safe on a drag bunt when China‚Äôs secondbaseman dropped the throw to load the bases. Hayward stepped up and hit a high and deep fly ball down the right field line for a grand slam homerun.

With the bases cleared, Polidori singled to right field, Thomas was hit by a pitch, Wideman hit a line drive to center to score Polidori and the ball went through the Chinese outfielder’s legs to allow Thomas to score as well. Wideman then scored on a Davidson ground out to first base. Noble followed with her third single of the day before Loewen grounded out to second to end the inning.

Natalie Becker (Waterloo, ON) came in to pitch in the bottom of the fifth but got into trouble as Canada seemed to lose focus. Becker gave up a leadoff triple and Canada committed two errors on infield ground balls to allow China to score a run and have runners on second and third. Becker hit the next batter and gave up a single that scored one more. Jaycee Affeldt (Maple Ridge, BC) relieved Becker with the bases loaded and no one out and promptly struck out the first two batters she faced and got a force out at second to end the game.

The trio of Canadian pitchers combined to allow four hits with six strikeouts and two walks. Hayward led Canada with three hits and six runs batted in, while Noble also had three hits. Wideman registered two hits and two runs batted in with Polidori chipping in with two hits and singles going to Aizprua – with two runs batted in – and Thomas.