Team Canada was bounced from contention at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championships Sunday night at Softball City, after a 3-1 loss to defending champion Japan.
The loss capped an up-and-down weekend for the fan favourite Canadians, who were blasted 14-2 by Team USA on Saturday afternoon but rebounded Sunday afternoon to wallop Puerto Rico by a 7-1 margin, before facing Japan that night.
The US squad beat Australia in the other semifinal Sunday, setting up a USA-Japan rematch in the Women’s International division championship game Monday night. Canada played Australia for third-place on Monday afternoon.
Both games were played after press deadlines.
Against Japan Sunday, it was fielding miscues that did the Canadian squad in. In the bottom of the first inning, Japan took a 1-0 lead when Misato Kawano led off with a single, then advanced all the way to third base after an error by Canadian pitcher Karissa Hovinga, who made two errors in the game. One batter later, Kawano scored on a throwing error by shortstop Joey Lye.
Canada briefly tied the game in the top of the fifth inning when Megan Timpf – playing all weekend with her wrist wrapped in medical tape – was hit by a pitch and then came around to score, but the tie game didn’t last.
In the home half of the inning, Japan plated a pair of runs on two singles and a sacrifice, to retake the lead, 3-1.
Hovinga, who had pitched more innings for Canada than any other pitcher, got the start Saturday against Team USA, too, pitching three innings, giving up six hits and five earned runs before being relieved by Madison Schreyer and then, for one-third of an inning, former White Rock Renegade Marina Demore.
All three struggled against a powerful US offence, which was led by first baseman Valerie Ariato, who had a three-run home run and five RBI in the game. Ariato leads the Women’s International tourney with five home runs, 16 RBI and a .625 batting average in just seven contests.
The US built a 5-0 lead by the third inning, but Canada chipped away with a few runs of their own to keep it close until the sixth, when the States pounded the home team for seven hits and eight runs to put the game out of reach.
“This is one you’ve just got to put behind you pretty quick and move on to tomorrow,” said Team Canada left-fielder Melanie Matthews of the loss.
Though the weekend defeats – especially Saturday’s – were tough to take, Matthews, one of the team’s veterans, said her team was taking a long view of the situation, focusing instead on preparing for the world championships, which are slated for Whitehorse from July 13-22.
“We’re just gearing up for world championships, that’s what all this is for, so we’re just trying to take the positives out of everything – even a game like this – and move on,” said Matthews, who joined the national team just prior to the World Cup of Softball earlier this month in Oklahoma, taking a brief hiatus from her job at PriceWaterHouseCoopers in Vancouver.
“We had some good at bats against (US starting pitcher Keilani) Ricketts, and she’s their ace, in our opinion. She throws so hard from the left-hand side, so getting some (experience) against her, can’t hurt.”