AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico – The Canadian Women’s National Team is headed to the 2020 Women’s Baseball World Cup and with another medal on its resume, after notching its fifth win of the COPABE Women’s World qualifier against host Mexico on Sunday – an 11-1 five-inning, mercy-rule-shortened victory – to secure a bronze-medal finish after qualifying earlier in the event.
Team Canada got off to a stellar start in the tournament, defeating the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Cuba, before back-to-back tough losses against USA and Venezuela. The Canadian squad rebounded with a win over Puerto Rico before taking on Mexico to capture a medal.
“We knew this was a resilient team that could battle, but to see it unfold today with a beautiful game in all aspects of play is rewarding,” first-year Canadian manager Aaron Myette said. “When you see spurts of battling back during the tournament, in certain games, you know it’s there. But they put it all together in a big game, the bronze-medal game. They were firing on all cylinders today. They came together at the right time, and I couldn’t be happier for these girls.”
Mexico kept the Canadians off balance through the first two innings of Sunday’s matinee, but the squad from north of the border got things going with a four-run third that was highlighted by a three-run homer from 18-year-old Maddie Willan (Edmonton, AB). Canada added one run in the fourth, thanks to a solo shot from 20-year-old Carrie Jespersen (Spruce Grove, AB), and piled on the runs in the fifth, walking off Mexico after scoring six in the frame.
“It’s so amazing to win bronze,” Jespersen said. “I’m so excited we qualified, and then to win bronze too, it’s awesome. It’s not where we wanted to be, because we wanted to be in the gold-medal game, but bronze is pretty amazing.”
Added Willan: “It’s unbelievable. It definitely wasn’t an easy tournament for all of us – we had to battle a lot throughout the week, and it was great for all of us to come together in this bronze medal game and really put together a well-played game.”
Kelsey Lalor (Red Deer, AB) and Emma Carr (Toronto, ON) each had two hits in the matchup, also driving in one run apiece. Canada’s starting lineup against Mexico had an average age of just under 21 years old, and four players in either their first or second opportunities to face international competition, which the team is excited about as it moves forward.
“We have a bright future ahead of us,” Myette said. “These young girls doing this against this level of talent – today facing a good team in Mexico, with their ace on the mound – they’ve seen that calibre of pitching and they’re not fazed by it. They hit her pretty hard, scored some runs, and it says a lot about what we’re capable of. And because we’re so young, there’s a lot more room for growth.”
Amanda Asay (Prince George, BC) got the mound for Team Canada – also batting fifth in the matchup, walking twice, doubling once and scoring two runs – and the 14-year national team veteran earned the complete-game victory after throwing five innings, allowing one run on five hits with one walk, one hit batsman and four strikeouts, adding to a week that saw the 31-year-old PhD candidate consistently lead the team on and off the field.
“She can hit, she can pitch, she can play the field and she wants to be on the field all the time, competing all the time,” Myette said of Asay. “The other day, she hit a big home run for us, today she pitched a big game for us, and she’s done that in the past as well.
“I have huge confidence in her and I love having her in big games. She isn’t fazed by anything and there’s no one who can beat her. She can beat anybody. It’s so nice having that asset not only on the field, but her off-field leadership as well. She’s a woman of many talents and we’re very pleased we have her.”
Asay was excited at the opportunity she was afforded in Aguascalientes to get a glimpse of the future of Canadian women’s baseball firsthand, and looks forward to what more the team has in store.
“It shows that baseball in Canada is growing,” she said. “We had a big turnover coming into this tournament, so to show that we have a new generation, another set of younger players who can come up and do another really excellent job, it shows the strength of women’s baseball in Canada right now.”
As the game continues to grow, so too did many of the young players throughout the qualifier. With eight members of the 20-man roster competing internationally for the first time, and 10 different players from last year’s World Cup bronze-medal-winning team, what was most impressive was the way they fought through the event and battled back after some mid-tournament adversity.
“From the beginning of the tournament to the end, we saw some fight,” said Ashley Stephenson, the team’s first-time third-base coach after retiring in March as the program’s most decorated player. “We obviously had a couple tough losses in the middle, and won a very close Puerto Rico game where we could have really taken a hit, but instead battled back in a must-win game for us to qualify.
“The experience is still to come, but the talent is there. It’s our job to develop it. What I like the most is that we saw some character and some fight out of our girls, the will to win and the want to qualify. I don’t think you can ever know that you have that in a team until you see that.”
Added Asay: “Our ability to bounce back from those two tough losses in the middle of the tournament was most impressive. We even had a slow start to today’s game, and then we really came on fire, so the resiliency and heart came out here.
“Obviously finishing that way is fantastic for the girls, the team, the organization, being able to leave on that high note,” Myette said. “In some of the games, we didn’t play to the level we’re capable of, and this was more of what we can do – drive in runs, pitch ahead, get quicker innings and steady defence. After a few rougher periods through the tournament, finishing with a nice clean game was a great way to end it.”
2019 Women’s National Team roster
2019 COPABE World Cup qualifier schedule
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