Photo by ASA/USA Softball
“USA National Team takes Silver to Canada in 2015 Pan American Games Softball” Written By Bill Plummer
In past Pan American Games softball competition, the USA women’s team had dominated. Since softball was added to the Pan American Games in 1979, the USA had won the gold medal eight times and was trying for its ninth Pan Am title recently in Toronto, Canada.
The USA had defeated Canda twice, 7-0 and 5-2, in the round robin competition and were the odds-on favorite to win another gold medal. But sometimes the best laid plans go astray, and a team favored ends up losing. In this case, the USA National Team, which suffered a 4-2 loss to host Canada.
Since 1979, Canada and the USA had met 22 times in the Pan Am Games with the USA winning 20 of the games. The only losses came this year and in 1983 when Canada won its first women’s gold with a 5-4 win over the USA. In 13 of the 22 games Canada was shutout including a 7-0 defeat this year.
The Gold medal win is the Canadian Women’s Softball Team’s first since 1983, ending a run of seven consecutive for the United States. It also comes on the heels of a pair of Gold medals won by the Canadian Men’s Softball Team who were crowned WBSC Men’s World Softball Champions in Saskatoon three weeks ago and Pan American Games Champions in Ajax last week.
The two wins by the men and the gold medal by the women’s team caps an outstanding year and couldn’t have come at a better time with this year the 50th anniversary of Softball Canada.
The game was scoreless through seven innings and each team had six hits in the game. In the eighth, however, Canada scored four times collecting half of their hits and three runs off former Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina, who hurled two innings. Sara Nevins had started for the USA and allowed three hits and no runs through four and two-third innings before Jessica Moore hurled an inning and one third before Traina replaced her.
For Canada, Sara Groenewegen went the distance and allowed six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in eight innings.
She hurled 123 pitches and 79 of them were strikes. Traina hurled 51 pitches with 34 strikes, Moore 12 and eight and Nevins 73 and 49. The USA left seven runners on base while Canada stranded six.
“It’s tough to coach against good fortune,” said Head Coach Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla.). “We hit the ball really well today, just couldn’t catch any breaks. When you hit the ball right at them, it’s hard to make things happen. Unfortunate things happened for us while fortunate things happened for them.”
It was a pitcher’s duel through the majority of the game as USA’s starter Nevins (Pinellas Park, Fla.) retired Canada in order to start the game while Canada’s Groenewegen returned the favor in the bottom half of the frame. The first runner of the game would get on in the bottom of the second inning as Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit a two-out single but was thrown out in an attempt to leg it out into a double.
The U.S. would get a leadoff runner on in the bottom of the third as Janelle Lindvall (Stevenson Ranch, Calif.) hit a hard ground ball that sneaked by the third baseman but a pair of fly outs and stolen base attempt kept the U.S. from dealing any damage to keep the game scoreless through three complete innings. Canada would get their first base runner in the top of the fourth inning on a two-out single by Kaleigh Rafter, but a fly ball to Moultrie in left field kept the runner from advancing.
Two runners would get on base for Team USA in the bottom of the fourth inning as Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) reached on a bunt and advanced to second base on a line drive by Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.). With two on and one out, a hard hit fly ball to centerfield recorded the second out before Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif.) roped a line drive that the first baseman leaped up to snag for out number three. The U.S. would get another two on base in the bottom of the sixth as Chavanne reached on an error by the shortstop and a two-out walk to Gibson, but another deep fly ball from Arioto kept the game scoreless heading into the final inning.
Both sides would get runners on base in the seventh inning but failed to plate any runs to push the game into extra-innings. With the ITB rule in effect, Canada started the top of the eighth with a runner on second base. The first batter would reach on an error by the defense to put two on with no outs before a ground out to Romero at third advanced the runners a base. An intentional walk loaded the bases before Canada pushed across the first runs of the game with a hard hit two-run single from Joey Lye. With runners on second and third, an intentional walk to Rafter loaded the bases for the second time in the inning with one out. A sac-fly pushed across another run for Canada before a two-out single plated the final run for Canada to give them the 4-0 lead.
Down by four runs, Team USA started with Kellie Fox (San Diego, Calif.) on second base per the ITB rule. A walk to Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) put two on with no outs before Chavanne dropped in a fly ball single to left field to plate Fox to close the lead to 4-1. Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) advanced the runners with grounder to the third baseman before Gibson collected an RBI on a ground out to second base. With two outs and a runner on third, a walk to Arioto put runners on the corner, but a strikeout drew the game to a close with Canada earning their second Pan American Games Gold.
“It’s disappointing but our team was in it all the way until the end and that’s all you can ask for,” said Moultrie. “We didn’t give up and we were still in the game. We’re disappointed, but still very proud of our team. We’re still building and in years to come this will be a good learning experience for us.”
Three U.S. pitchers saw time in the circle today with Nevins compiling five strikeouts while allowing just three hits through four and two-third innings pitched. Moore (Sutter, Calif.) entered in relief in the middle of the fourth, recording two strikeouts through one and one-third innings pitched. Traina (Naples, Fla.) suffered the loss, issuing one strikeout through two innings of work.