Although Botswana (0-5) achieved four shutout innings of six Tuesday morning in a make-up game at the International Softball Federation Junior Men’s World Fast Pitch Championship in Whitehorse, Canada still prevailed with a 9-1 win.
“Obviously we’re the underdogs and we’ve had quite a number of problems, such as climatizing, but after a few days I feel we’re ready to compete,” said Botswana head coach Joseph Moroka.
“Today’s game we had a very good plan in place; we just gave our boys instructions to go and give their best.”
Coming into the bottom of the sixth up 6-1, Canada forced the game to an early close under the mercy rule when Dennis Iron put three runs on his team’s side of the board with a homer to centre field.
However, Iron’s homer — his first of the tournament — did not make its way cleanly over the fence. Botswana’s centre fielder got his mitt on it, but it jumped off the tip of the glove.
“I’ll take it — a home run is a home run,” said Dennis Iron, who batted two-for-three and scored in the third inning.
“I think so, it was up there,” said Iron when asked if he thought his hit would have made it over on its own.
The third inning was at the root of Canada’s triumph. After Iron scored on a line drive by Dylan Cunningham, Terrell Walker brought home two more on a ground-rule double to right field.
However, Joran Graham made the biggest dent in the inning, doubling Canada’s score with a three-run shot to left field.
“I was 0-2 in the count and our coach said to choke up on the bat a little, put the bat on the ball,” said Graham of his homer, his third of the tournament. “So I choked up on the bat, hit a high-rise ball, and that was about it.”
Because of Canada’s third-inning success, head coach Tom Doucette decided to pull his starting pitcher, Cunningham, who had struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced up to that point.
“There’s some innings you want to save your horses for,” said Doucette. “After we broke the game open a little bit, I was just trying to save innings for my pitcher — keep his arm and shoulder intact.
“If we need him to come back and help us with Australia, he’ll be there. He didn’t over work himself this morning.”
Cunningham returned to the game after the reliever, Cory Jones, suffered a minor injury early in the sixth inning.
“I caught my foot under the rubber and twisted my foot a little bit,” explained Jones, who was making his tournament debut. “I’ll be all right.”
Venezuela gets thumped
The fact that Venezuela (4-2) had to pull its starting pitcher before registering a single out, speaks volumes.
Knowing that the team was on its third pitcher by the top of the second, says it all.
Monday evening, Canada came out with bats on fire, jumping to a massive lead early on, in a 14-3 trouncing of the Venezuela team.
“I’m so proud of the discipline by my offensive hitters,” said coach Doucette. “They weren’t leaving the zone, they only swung at strikes, they showed tremendous discipline.”
After scoring six runs in the first inning, Canada zoomed into double digits with a pair of three-run shots and an RBI by Dylan Cunningham.
With runners on first and third, Joran Graham sent the ball over the centre field fence to make it 9-2. Then after Cunningham brought in Shane Boland with an infield grounder, Mike Noftall pushed the score to 13-2 with his first homer of the tournament, clearing the left field wall.
“It just came right down the middle,” said Noftall, who batted two-for-four in the game, of the pitch he took for a ride. “It just barely got out, actually.
“Our bats really came through. We’ve been hitting the ball really well so far in the tournament — and that’s what has really been doing it for us.”
Venezuela’s final run came in the fourth inning when Marcos Sanz hit a line drive just over the mitt of Canada’s shortstop, Walker, to bring in Esteban Herrera.
The inning ended with a pair of base runners stranded, the two of which could have brought the run-deficit to under 10 and extended the game past the fifth had they scored. The tournament’s mercy rule brought the game to a close after the top of the fifth.
“I was at the top of my game today,” said Team Canada’s pitcher Dustin Keshane, who produced 11 strikeouts in just five innings. Keshane had particular success catching batters going upstairs. “That’s what I was going for: high and inside.”
Venezuela’s most productive inning was the second, in which the team got three hits and two runs.
“I just had to give the outfields a little bit of action too,” joked Keshane, referring to the second inning. “I don’t want to do it all myself.”