The Junior Spirit came achingly close to a maiden medal in the U19 Women’s World Cup, falling by just one run to Canada in the bronze medal game of the international tournament played in Irvine, California.
While the Junior Spirit out-hit Canada 11-5, Australia went down 5-4, another late-game comeback looked likely, something the Junior Spirit became notorious for throughout the World Cup, but after a couple of opportunities were let slip, Canada wrapped up third place in the top of the seventh inning.
Canada came into the third-place game as the favourite, and despite an early lead had to fight through the very last pitch to overcome a brave Australian side.
The North got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Kendra Falby was up to her usual business: she reached on a base hit, stole second and scored on a line drive into the gap to right-centre that took Allyse Volpe to third. The second run scored on a sacrifice fly by Grace Messmer.
Canada’s Nicole Rivait used an error to score the third run in the bottom of the third. A run that would be key for Canada to maintain the lead in the top of the third.
Australia’s Jenna Trim got to second on a defensive error and scored on a base hit by Mya Geros. Kayla Hancox got to Canada’s starter Samantha Ryan and sent a bullet off the third-base bag that turned into a double and scored the second run.
Canada thought they had knocked Australia out in the bottom of the fifth. Alexis Lucyshin reached on a lead-off triple and Grace Messmer singled to put the runners at the corner. The fourth run scored when a grounder by Mia Valcke forced the second out at second. Valcke herself reached second on a wild pitch and Rebecca Jones brought both runners in with a single through the left side.
Australia was not done. Brooke Stewart led off the sixth with a base hit and Canada gave the call to Alexis Lucyshyn. The reliever got started with a strikeout, but Australia got to her with three consecutive singles to make it a two-run game.
One run ball game!! ?? ?? ?? pic.twitter.com/GY3aZgGRFo
— WBSC #U19SoftballWC (@WBSCsoftball) August 17, 2019
Madelyn Hickingbottom headed to the circle with the bases loaded and immediately gave up the fourth run on a pop to shallow left field that fell despite a brave diving attempt by Volpe. Geros hit then a hard grounder to third, that allowed Jones to get the force out at home and Hickingbottom got out of the jam as pinch hitter Madison Graham struck out looking on an outside fastball.
Australia put the potential tying run on base in the top of the seventh when Willems reached on a two-out single. Hickingbottom got Philippa Adkins swinging at a changeup to close the game.
The strikeout ignited celebration for first-ever U-19 bronze medal for Canada. Australia finished the tournament with five wins and five losses for fourth place.
United States defeated Japan 4-3 in the gold medal game.
Junior Spirit Box Scores:
- Japan 8 d Australia 1
- Australia 11 d South Africa 0
- Australia 3 d Italy 0
- Australia 4 d China 2
- Mexico 5 d Australia 1
- Australia 6 d Puerto Rico 2
- Canada 7 d Australia 0
- Australia 12 d Chinese Taipei 3
- USA 9 d Australia 0
- Canada 5 d Australia 4