BRAMPTON, Ontario, Canada - Heavy rainfall proved to be a foe for the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team as the squad fell 4-0 to Japan at the International Softball Federation (ISF) Junior Women’s World Championship (JWWC). The game was called in the top of the seventh inning due to the inclement weather after two rain delays halted the game.
“I’m proud of this team and how far they’ve come,” Head Coach Tairia Flowers said. “They have so much talent and personality and it showed during our time together. For us to only give up runs in one inning out of the entire tournament, I think it says a lot for our team and what we’re capable of. Unfortunately we fell short, but we fought back. Up until the game was called, we were ready to compete and take the game back, but unfortunately that opportunity didn’t happen.”
Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) got the start in the circle for the USA. The left hander threw four and a third innings, giving up four run on four hits. Hawkins, who’s JWWC record moved to 4-1, struck out six Japanese batters in the game. Erica Nunn (Apex, N.C.) entered in relief in the fourth, issuing two strikeouts and no hits.
Kana Nakano went the complete game in the circle for Japan only giving up one hit while striking out nine USA batters.
The game was scoreless through the first five innings of play. Japan’s Enomoto put their first base runner on in the top of the first on a miscue by the U.S. offense. Okuda followed with a single but Hawkins closed the top half of the inning with the two runners stranded. Emily Crane (Troy, Mo.) would respond in the bottom of the first with a walk, but two groundouts and a strikeout retired the inning.
Japan would go down in order in the second inning via two strikeouts and a groundout. The Red, White and Blue would get another base runner in the bottom of the second when Jessica Plaza (Huntington Beach, Calif.) was hit by a pitch, but once again the U.S. offense failed to produce and Plaza was left stranded at first.
Japan would put another two runners on base in the third inning as two singles put a runner in scoring position, but Hawkins produced a strikeout and Mysha Sataraka (Honolulu, Hawaii) caught a pop up to end the Japanese threat for the second time.
The top of the fifth inning proved to be the downfall for the U.S. defense as Japan put two runners on via the bunt. With a runner on first and second, a groundout pushed the two runners into scoring position. Okuda then sent a single to center to score the two runners and put Japan up 2-0. Aoki then sent a long ball over the right field fence to extend the lead to 4-0. With the home run, Nunn came into the game with one out, and retired the Japan offense.
The U.S. would load the bases in the bottom of the fifth as Plaza, Danica Mercado (Temecula, Calif.) and Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) received a walk, hit-by-pitch and another walk put the first runners in scoring position for Team USA, respectively. Nakano then pitched three-consecutive strikes to bring her team back to the plate. Nunn would retire Japan in order, bringing the U.S. up-to-bat for what would be their last time.
From the plate, the USA struggled for the first time in the JWWC as they failed to produce a hit until the sixth inning when Crane connected for a single. Sataraka followed with a walk, but the U.S. couldn’t get anything going as two strikeouts and a pop up ended the inning.
As heavy rain started to pour for the second time in the game, ISF officials and the field crew met to discuss the possibility of continuing the game with another rain delay. Unfortunately for the U.S., that opportunity didn’t happen and the game was called after the sixth inning with Japan walking away with the default 4-0 win.
With the loss the 2013 USA Softball Junior Women’s season comes to a close. USA finished the World Championships with a 9-1 record (Venezuela dropped out of the JWWC so the U.S. won that game via forfeit), outscoring their opponents 70-4.
Crane finished the season with the highest batting average (minimum of 10 plate appearances) for the USA at .583. As a team the USA batters hit for a .443 average on the year.
From the circle the USA pitching staff finished with a combined 0.47 ERA, with Hawkins receiving only 2 earned runs in the JWWC for a 2.33 ERA.
“Coming in to this summer I was really nervous,” said Emily Crane. “I’ve made some lifelong friendships and being able to play with these girls made it so much more fun. The opportunity to represent my country is something I’ll never forget, and although I wish the outcome was different, I’m proud of how much we accomplished as a team in such a short amount of time.”
USA will now turn its sights toward the 2015 ISF Junior Women’s World Championships, which are scheduled to be held in Oklahoma City, Okla. at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex.