2011 Border Battle Update on the Exhibition Games
USA and Canadian Men’s Slow Pitch National Teams Prep For Border Battle- by Bill Plummer
OKLAHOMA CITY – The USA Softball Men’s Slow Pitch National Team played two games different as night and day while the Canadian National Team was surprised in its opening game in slow pitch exhibition games held in conjunction with the World Cup of Softball at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City. The USA, which had won its five earlier slow pitch games on the road, increased its overall record to 7-0 with two wins, run-ruling Touch of Grey of Oklahoma City, 25-10, in five innings and Gold’s Gym of Dallas, 11-8.
After its loss, Gold’s Gym came back in its next game to throttle Team Canada, 26-4, in four innings. Gold’s scored 15 runs in the top of the first inning and the Canadians never were in the game, collecting only five hits to 30 for Gold’s Gym. Gold’s smashed eight homers to only two for Team Canada with Clay Smitherman and Kelly Hartman each hitting a pair of homers. Hartman drove in six runs and Smitherman and Cody Brooks, four a piece. Designated hitter Kevin Bergin had two hits for Canada, which will hope to bounce back with two games Friday (4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.) against the Fence Brokers Incorporated and Touch of Grey.
In its first game, the USA fell behind 5-0 before tying the game twice at 5-5 and 7-7 before falling behind, 10-7, going into the bottom of the fifth inning. As can happen in top-level slow pitch—and especially with the caliber of players on the USA National Team—one inning can mean the difference in a ball game. For the USA, it was the bottom of the fifth as it scored 18 times on 17 hits to decide the game via the run rule, 15 after five.
The inning was highlighted by a pair of grand slam homers by John McCraw, one of six players on the USA who have been on all three USA National Teams. McCraw, who also had a single in a three-for-four performance, drove in a team-high eight runs. It was the first time in his 16-year slow pitch career that he had hit grand slam homers in consecutive at-bats in the same inning. The USA hit eight homers in the game and all came in the fifth inning.
Brett Krueger hit the only homer for the losing team—a three-run smash in the top of the fifth to account for its final three runs. Besides McCraw, Don DeDonatis Jr., Brian Wegman, Brett Helmer, Rick Baker and Brian Rainwater had three hits a piece. Tony Rodgers and Chris Holland each had three hits a piece to lead Touch of Grey who collected 15 hits compared to 27 for the USA.
In the second game, the USA jumped out to an early 6-0 lead before Gold’s tied the game at 6-6 heading into the bottom of the third inning. The USA scored twice in the third, fourth and once each in the fifth innings while Gold’s didn’t score in the fourth and seventh innings and scored only one run each in the fifth and sixth innings. RustyBumgardner and Dal Beggs each hit two-run homers for the USA in the third and fourth innings and J.D. Genter’s sacrifice fly brought across the run in the fifth inning. Each team hit four home runs and the USA had one more hit than Gold’s Gym, 17-16. Greg Connell was the only USA player (3-for-3) with at least three hits.
USA Head Coach Steve Shortland, in his third year of leading the team, was pleased with his team’s two wins.”This is the first time we’ve played during the day,” said Shortland. “We are using these games as a coaching tool. A win is a win, but our work isn’t done.”
For Shortland his work won’t be done until Saturday when his USA team plays Canada at 3:00 p.m./CT in the third Border Battle at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex. The Border Battle is even at one win apiece with the USA winning two years ago 30-23 and Canada last year, 30-29.
Note: the 3 PM Central game is on ESPN this Saturday, July 23rd