It took only three pitches for Australia (7-0) to take the lead and then later regain it Tuesday evening at the International Softball Federation Junior Men’s World Fast Pitch Championships in Whitehorse.
Team Canada (6-1) kept on the three-time defending champ’s coattails for seven innings, but eventually suffered a 3-1 defeat in the closest game played of the tournament.
In the bottom of the first, Australia almost instantly took the lead as its leadoff hitter, Heath Wells, tracked down the second pitch he faced and sent a low-flyer over the centre field fence.
“The ball didn’t break like I wanted it to, so it pretty much just went flat,” said Canada pitcher Dustin Keshane.
“It actually just made me want to go harder and try to finish the inning off,” said Keshane, when asked if it was demoralizing to give up a run so early in the game.
After Canada put a runner over the plate to tie the game, Australia again made headway with a leadoff hitter in the bottom of the fourth. On the first pitch sent his way, infielder Ryan Lavers used the aluminum to send the ball over the fence in centre field.
“As soon as we made a big play, they’d come back and get a big hit — leadoff home runs right away,” said Joran Graham, who scored Canada’s only run. “That kind of brought us back down after they got the two leadoff home runs.”
Canada’s lone run of the game, which came in the top of the fourth, was a little out of the ordinary. With Graham on first, Dan Mitchell hit an infield chopper to the Aussie’s second-base man. However, a throwing error to first allowed Mitchell to get on the bag safely as Graham got to third.
Not completely sure where the ball was, Mitchell crossed the baseline, putting himself in play. As if suddenly disinterested in making it to second, Mitchell allowed Australia’s first-base man to approach and tag him, not realizing that behind his back Graham was in the process of crossing the plate.
“I just heard the ball hit the fence and then hoped the first base man messed up on it, so I was going to break to second,” said Mitchell. “Then he turned around and saw me going so I just stood there and waited for him to come get me, hoping that we’d score a run.”
“I got to third and saw the first baseman talking to the ump, so I decided to go home and get the only run,” said Graham. “So it worked out.”
Despite facing another run in the fifth inning, and being dealt three-up-three-down innings in the fifth and sixth, Canada made a final push for the win in the seventh. With a grounder into right field and a walk, Canada managed to get the lead run to the plate.
However, a pair of strikeouts and a diving catch in centre field by Wells closed the books on the game.
“Another great all-around athlete,” said Australia coach John Neilson of Wells. “He’s my leadoff batter … He controls the outfield and just does the job.”
“When you have runners in scoring position … all you want to do is make good ball-contact and put it in play somewhere,” said Canada head coach Tom Doucette.
“Tonight we had runners on second and third, we had runners on first and third, we had runners on first and second, and all three times we hit the ball hard. (However) up to now in the run of the tournament they all managed to find gaps somewhere.
“I’m not going to lose any sleep about it,” added Doucette. “The tournament still has a lot of games to be played, a lot of hen-pecking and positioning to do. You know, we’re going to do some stuff, and that’s what Canada does.”
Canada faces Mexico Wednesday at noon and Denmark that evening at 7:30. Then on Thursday the Canuck team will play Denmark at 7:30 p.m. and then the United States on Friday at the same time.
Australia 7, Czech Republic 2; Argentina 7, Denmark 1; Canada 14, Venezuela 3; Australia 19, Denmark 1
Argentina 15, South Africa 3; Canada 9, Botswana 1; Mexico 9, South Africa 6; United States 15, Botswana 0; Japan 8, New Zealand 7; Australia 6, Argentina 3; Mexico 10, Denmark 0; United States 12, Venezuela 4; New Zealand 7, South Africa 0; Japan 11, Botswana 2; Australia 3, Canada 1; Venezuela 9, Czech Republic 2