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U.S.A. moves into first

Defending world champions upend Canada, Japan at Canadian Open
With Venezuelan infielder Yuruby Alicart looking on

Team Canada is doing its best to make sure spectators at the Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship get their money’s worth.

The loss was the second of the day for Japan (4-2, won-lost), knocking them into second place in the women’s division, behind the U.S. (5-1). Canada sits third with a 3-2 mark. The U.S.A. handed Japan their first loss of the tournament Tuesday morning, scoring five unearned runs in the fifth inning in a 5-1 win.

Playoff rounds begin tomorrow (Friday), with all five international teams joined by the top three teams in the Elite division for an eight-team double knockout playoff. The championship game is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Softball City.

On Tuesday, Canada and Japan – the best defensive team in the tournament through the first half the round-robin schedule – played each other to a 0-0 standstill until the top of the seventh inning, when Canadian catcher Kaleigh Rafter singled, and Shelby Lia, pinch-running for the veteran Rafter, was brought around to score from second base on a two-out Megan Baird single.

In the bottom of the inning, Canadian pitcher Sarah Phillips – who pitched the last three innings in relief of starter Jenna Caira – allowed just one hit to Yukiko Ueno, and though she eventually advanced to third base, was stranded there when Phillips struck up Maki Furuta for the final out.

Against Japan Monday, Canada took an early lead in the bottom of the second inning, when Jill Russell got on base with a one-out single, then scored on a double from Danielle Lopez with two outs. The Americans pulled even two innings later on a lead-off home run from Valerie Arioto.

In the top of the eighth inning, U.S.A. had one runner on base at the start of the inning under the international tiebreaker rule, and added a second on an intentional walk.

Molly Johnson then smacked the game-winning hit, a double which scored both baserunners.

Keilani Ricketts struck out three Canadian batters in the bottom of the eighth to end the game.

Canada played Venezuela Wednesday night after The Leader deadline, and tonight (Thursday) they play back-to-back games against Australia and the U.S.A. to finish off their round-robin schedule.

- The Surrey Storm ‘93 are off to a perfect start midway through the round robin portiotn of the Future Gold (under-19) tournament. The Storm won their first three games, all by shutout, over the Calgary Kodiaks (9-0), the Kelowna Heat (11-0) and the Fraser Valley Fusion (8-0).

Canada was the lone unbeaten team among the four national junior team squads through Wednesday afternoon, winning its first five games to clinch first place in their pool.

Brazil is 4-1, their lone loss a 14-0 setback to the California Worth Firecrackers.

Great Britain had won just one of its first four contests, while Peru had dropped its first two games.

Sixteen of the 27 teams in the Futures Gold division qualify for the double knockout playoff, which begins today (Friday) at Cloverdale Athletic Park and Softball City.

- The Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch Championship will remember the life of Kassandra Kaulius tonight at 6:30 p.m., prior to the first game of a Team Canada double-header.

Kaulius died in a traffic accident on May 3, when her car was struck by an alleged drunk driver. The 22-year-old was driving home after playing for her senior softball team and coaching a Pee Wee girls team at Cloverdale Athletic Park.

“Kassandra was an exceptional softball player on the Surrey Storm Fastpitch senior team and was an inspiration for the Storm’s Peewee 97A girls’ team as an assistant coach and mentor for these young girls,” said Greg Timm, chairman of the Canadian Open Fastpitch Association. “We are going to commemorate her before Team Canada’s game as a way to honour her and pay our respects to her family, friends, teammates and coaches.”

In memory of Kaulius, the Canadian Open has organized volunteers to accept donations for Kassandra’s scholarship fund that helps support an athlete each year with the costs of post-secondary education.

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