Team Canada’s Carey-Leigh Thomas (right) is congratulated by teammate Natalie Wideman after scoring a run during a game against the Rivercity Hornets July 11 at Softball City. Canada won that game

Japan wins fifth straight Canadian Open title

Canada ousted from contention after loss to Cuba in semifinals Monday evening.

Chalk up another victory for Japan.

For the fifth summer in a row, the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship’s women’s division crown went to the Japanese national squad, who defeated an overmatched Cuban squad 10-0 in the title game Monday night. The game lasted just three innings and ended early on account of the mercy rule, which was invoked after the champs plated all 10 runs in the third frame.

Japan punched its ticket to the gold-medal game after a 6-1 win over Canada in semifinal action Sunday. The loss bumped the Canadians into the secondary bracket of the double-knockout tournament, which set up a do-or-die game Monday against Cuba, with the winner advancing to the finals.

The game was scoreless through the first half, until Canada opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth when Jenn Salling took a walk, advanced to second on a single from Sara Riske, and then scored on another single by Megan Gurski.

The slim lead held until the last inning, when Cuba managed to get four hits and three runs off Canadian pitcher Karissa Hovinga, who pitched just one inning after relieving starter Jenna Caira.

Caira had allowed six hits and struck out six through six innings of work prior to the pitching change, but was pulled, after throwing 85 pitches.

Numerous times throughout the week, members of the Canadian squad said repeatedly that they were using the Canadian Open as a warm-up for Pan-Am Games – which are currently being held in Toronto – and that while finishing first here would be ideal, it was not their number-one goal.

We’re trying to prepare ourselves, and we’re fine-tuning as we need to, and looking after getting people the (playing time) they need to get, while at the same time being mindful that we’re going to be playing a lot of ball in a short period of time,’’ head coach Mark Smith told Peace Arch News last week. “As much as we’d like to win the Canadian Open, we also want to win the gold medal at Pan-Ams in two weeks, so we need to leave here healthy and ready to go.”

Canada has not won the Canadian Open – nor its predecessor, the Canada Cup – since 1996.

Canadian youth squad, Renegades win youth divisions

Team Canada was all but untouchable in the Futures Gold (U19) division at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship.

The Junior National team, which will compete at the Junior Women’s World Softball Championship from August 9-15 in Oklahoma City, surrendered just three runs in five playoff games while winning the Futures championship. They clinched the title Sunday evening with a 7-0 victory over the Delta Heat ’97.

In 10 playoff and round-robin games, Team Canada was a perfect 10-0 (won-loss) with a runs for-against aggregate of 78-8.

In the championship game Sunday, Taylor Lundrigan hit a two-run single in the bottom of the first inning to put Canada up 2-0. Emma Entzminger with a triple and Alisha Welch with a double drove in two runs each in the bottom of the second inning. Entzminger doubled to score a run in the sixth inning, ending the game on the mercy rule.

Madison Hope earned the six inning shutout win for Canada, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. Entzminger led the way offensively with a triple, a double, a single and three runs batted in.

Canada’s closest game of the tournament was a 2-1 semifinal win over the White Rock Renegades ’97 Saturday evening. Holly Speers of Surrey singled to score Courtney Gilbert for a 1-0 Canada lead in the first inning, but the Renegades tied it with three consecutive two-out singles in the bottom half of the inning.

In the top of the events inning, Brielle McCullough singled to score Maude Sigouin from second base, giving Canada the one-run victory.

The White Rock Renegades ’00 team won all nine games it played to become champions in the Showcase (U16) Gold division. After five round robin victories and three playoff wins, the Renegades stopped Surrey Storm ’01 7-2 in Sunday afternoon’s championship game.

“Going in, we expected to do well. It was a great team performance,” said Renegades coach Rick Leche.

“We got great pitching from everybody – each one of our pitchers had at least one complete game –  and the thing we’re most proud of is our team defence.”

White Rock allowed just 16 runs in the nine games. They carried a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning Sunday, before scoring four times to break the game open.

“We scored one in the first inning, then just kept chipping away and putting the pressure on them, and then that big inning certainly helped,” said Leche.

“We ran into some tough competition along the way, and those guys gave us a heckuva run.”

Storm ’01 was seeded fifth for the 12-team playoff with a 3-2 record.

They were thumped 9-1 by Surrey Storm ’99 in the first round of the playoffs, but then won four consecutive games to get to the losers’ bracket final, where they edged Storm ’99 6-5.

– with files from Rick Kupchuk

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