It took a couple innings for the bats to start working, but once they did Team Canada was unstoppable.
Canada’s National Women’s Softball Team overcame an early deficit to beat the Czech Republic 9-5 at Prime Minister’s Park on Thursday. Canada now leads the series two games to one after the two teams split a double-header in Melfort on Wednesday.
“We hit the ball well today,” Team Canada coach Kaleigh Rafter said. “We had a lot of traffic on (base), which was nice. In Game 2 yesterday (Wednesday), we struggled a little bit just getting runners on, but it’s coming together offensively.”
Weyburn, Sask. product Jorde Chartrand started the game for Team Canada. Chartrand gave up one run on three hits over three innings, while striking out one before giving way to the bullpen.
Reliever Nicola Simpson earned the win, giving up four runs on four hits, while striking out two and walking two in two and a third innings. Samantha Ryan got the final two outs in the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh to secure the win.
“I think we worked together really well,” Chartrand said afterwards. “We set up our plan and executed just like we wanted to. We learn something new every time we play them, so I think we did well.”
Canada opened the game in front of a grandstand packed with Canadian fans, but it was the Czech Republic that struck first.
Eliska Stejskalova got the visitors on the board with an RBI ground out in the top of the first to make it 1-0.
Canada tied things up in the bottom of the third when 1B Larissa Franklin scored on an RBI single by Alysen Febrey. Canada went ahead 2-1 not long after when 2B Kelsey Harshman scored on an error.
The Czechs evened things up in the top of the fourth when SS Michaela Peckova doubled and later scored, but the Canadians took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI single from catcher Madelyn McKinnon and a sac fly from CF Victoria Hayward.
Canada blew the game wide open in the fifth, with triples from LF Kianna Jones, SS Janet Leung, and 3B Erika Polidori helping the team to a four run inning.
The Czechs rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth after a walk, a hit batter, and three singles, but that was all the visitors could muster. Canada added an insurance run in the sixth, and held the Czechs off the board in the seventh to secure the win.
“We definitely hit enough to win a ball game today, so that was good for us,” Rafter said. “The pitchers, everyone was nice…. We’re not launching any balls, but just (giving up) a lot of back-to-back stuff, so a point of emphasis tomorrow (Friday) is ‘can we eliminate some of those back-to-backs a little bit more?’”
No place like home
Team Canada’s work wasn’t done following the final out at Prime Minister’s Park.
The team and coaching staff stayed behind following their 9-5 victory to sign autographs and pose for pictures along the third base line fence.
For Saskatchewan residents like Team Canada pitcher Jorde Chartrand, it was a bit of a surreal moment.
“Last year that was me,” she said. “I was on the other side of that fence looking up to these players. It’s so important. I never thought I’d be here, but it’s all about dreaming and working hard to make those dreams come true.”
The moment was particularly special for Chartrand, who played her first game of elite softball in Prince Albert. She said Thursday’s game felt like a bit of a homecoming.
“It’s pretty fun, for sure,” she said. “It’s different playing here now, but it’s awesome to see the support.”
Head coach Kaleigh Rafter credited the large crowd for generating a great atmosphere, and the Prince Albert Minor Softball players who attended for creating lots of excitement.
“They’ve been awesome,” Rafter said when asked about the crowds. “Last night (Wednesday) in Melfort, and then obviously tonight (Thursday) they had a packed house…. There are a tonne of kids out today, which is great to see. I know they seem to enjoy chasing down the foul balls and just being around the park, so hopefully there were some memories for these little ones.”
Canada continues their series with the Czech Republic in Saskatoon on Friday.