News / JUNIORS GET VALUABLE EXPERIENCE AHEAD OF WORLDS
SOUTH SURREY — Canada’s junior women’s softball team got a lesson this week in how big the jump is from the under-19 age group to the senior international level.
But tough games at the Canada Cup tournament against senior national teams from Venezuela, Australia and Chinese Taipei was just what the head coach was looking for in advance of the WBSC world junior championships July 24-30 in Clearwater, Fla.
“It is great preparation,” said Keith Mackintosh after his side fell 5-0 to world No. 9 Chinese Taipei Sunday morning in a Placement Round playoff game at Softball City. “We got an opportunity to play some teams that are, obviously, as good or better than what we’re going to see down in Florida.”
Canada later beat the U.S. National Junior College All-Star squad 6-2 to earn another matchup Sunday night with Chinese Taipei.
In earlier pool play, Canada fell 7-0 to No. 4 Australia and 13-2 to No. 16 Venezuela. But the juniors also defeated the Calahoo Erins, a club team from Alberta, 4-1 and 2-0, beat the Quebec Rebelles 11-4 and walloped the Team BC U21 squad 8-1.
All of those teams threw experienced senior age pitchers, forcing the young Canadians to really bear down at the plate.
“We’re talking about making adjustments,” said Mackintosh. “So if you go up to the plate, you’re not going to see the same thing the next time. Top-class pitchers, world-class pitchers will move the ball around and try to get you out in different ways. The girls are learning to make those adjustments at the plate.”
Chinese Taipei scored twice in the third inning off Canadian starter Kara Bilodeau, a Cumming, Ga., native whose father, Steve, was born in Canada. The incoming Auburn University freshman got into trouble again in the fifth, but Macintosh left her in the game as she gave up three runs.
“It’s a situation where we probably would have played that a little different if it was world championships, but we need to see what the girls have, see how they function in certain situations when faced with adversity. Yeah, we want to win, but it’s not a world championship on the line.”
“We want to make sure we’re putting girls in situations where we know exactly what we’re going to get when we get down to Florida.”
Shortstop Grace Messmer, a 16-year-old from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey, said the Canadian squad learned this week “how to preserve through everything.
“Our whole team has done great at bat, great for our confidence before worlds.”
Mackintosh, who coached the Canadian juniors to a fourth-place finish at the 2015 worlds, likes the look of the squad he’s taking to Florida. It includes six B.C.-born athletes, including Messmer, outfielders Hanna Finklestein (Richmond) and Abbey Fortin (Langley) and catcher Maria Palmegiani of Surrey.
“This team, we have a little more depth in different positions,” said Mackintosh. “We don’t have a (Kelsey) Jenkins or a (Holly) Speers, who were stars at the time (and who hit well for the Canadian senior team this week), but we’ve got a lot of gritty kids who can play multiple positions.”
“Everybody’s goal is a gold medal, but yeah I think we can legitimately be a podium team. We have to play error-free, though, and move the ball.”
The worlds will feature a record 26 countries. Canada is in a pool with China, Great Britain, Ireland, Korea and Mexico. The top two countries in each pool advance to a double knockout championship round.