Despite a very supportive home crowd, Team Canada was unable to collect two medals in a row at the ISF XIII Women’s World Fastpitch Championship.
Canada, who won bronze at the 2010 championship, finished fourth with a 3-1 loss to Australia on Saturday at Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre.
Australia went on to take the bronze after losing 2-0 to Japan on Sunday. Japan won their first gold since 1970 in a 2-1 win over the seven-time defending U.S.A. team in the final.
With runners stranded at the end of four of the game’s seven innings – three times within scoring position – Team Canada had its chances to change the game’s outcome.
“It was a game of inches,” said Canada’s head coach Mark Smith. “We had, I think, three situations where we had runners in scoring position where we hit balls hard, right at people or within 10 feet of an outfielder that they could get to.
“The one in the sixth inning with (Kaleigh) Rafter’s down the line, if that was five feet (farther) right of the outfielder, we’d probably score two runs that inning…
“That’s the way the game goes and it wasn’t for a lack of effort. We threatened every inning.”
Rafter’s sixth-inning hit could have been a game-changer. With Canada trailing 2-1, Jennifer Yee on second and Sheena Lawrick on first, Rafter drilled a deep line drive to right field that could have been a triple. Australia’s right-fielder made a beautiful jumping catch for the third out.
“It was definitely a tough one,” said Canada catcher Erin Cumpstone. “Any time you battle to the end of the seventh and get some hits that they just run down, line drives they end up catching that in other games fall and you score a couple runs, it’s just tough.
“We were right there; we had a good pitching performance; our bats were there. It’s just a tough game.
“Softball is a frustrating game. You hit the ball right at them and you’re out, you hit the ball two feet to the left or the right and you’re a hero.”
Canada’s one run came in the bottom of the fourth inning when they were down 2-0. Utility player Joey Lye nailed a deep drive to right field for a triple. She was then brought home on a sacrifice fly from Yee.
Just three days earlier, Canada defeated Australia 2-0 on the same field. Team Canada’s top pitcher, Danielle Lawrie, pitched all seven innings for the shutout win.
On Saturday she allowed six hits in the first three innings – including a homer on her third pitch of the game – and was pulled for Jenna Caira, who allowed just three hits in four innings and produced four strikeouts.
“They were swinging early and they were getting on me,” said Lawrie. “Obviously it was a good change because Jenna (Caira) came in, held them off and did a really good job.”
“It’s upsetting, but I feel like our whole team came through together,” said Caira. “We started the game together, we ended together, fought hard the entire game. I take my hat off to Australia, they played a solid game.”
Canada secured five shutout wins at the championship. The team finished the round-robin second in their pool with a 6-2 loss to gold-winning Japan.
Canada lost 4-2 to the U.S.A. to start the playoffs on Friday, becoming the first team in the championship to score more than one run off the powerhouse Americans. The home team then won 4-0 over the Netherlands to reach the game against Australia.
In addition to winning the bronze at the 2010 championship in Venezuela, Canada’s only other medal was a silver in 1978.
Canada also finished fourth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, there too placing a spot behind Australia.
Team Australia won gold in 1965 and silver in 1998 but hasn’t been able to repeat either feat since. The bronze is Australia’s fifth from the world championships.
Saturday’s loss wasn’t the first time that field saw Canada lose to the Aussies 2-1 in a world championship. In June of 2008, in the final of the ISF Junior Men’s World Fast Pitch Championship, Australia defeated Canada for the gold on Field 1 of the Pepsi Centre.
“The atmosphere the Yukon community brings is absolutely amazing,” said Caira. “That’s the one thing I’ll absolutely cherish forever for this Worlds – the Canadian spirit and the excitement that they brought for us. That’s something I’ll have in my heart forever.
“We tried to go for the gold medal and although the result didn’t go our way, we played to our best potential.”
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