Wednesday April 1st, 2020

Fourth inning the difference for USA in winning Border Battle IV

Fourth inning the difference for USA in winning Border Battle IV

By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY – One inning often can be the difference in a softball game. And it  was for the USA National Team in Saturday's Border Battle IV in a come-from-behind 32-21 win over Team Canada at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The inning that proved to be the difference in the game was the bottom of the fourth inning. This was after Canada scored nine times in the top of the inning to take a commanding 18-4 lead against the USA, which played unemotional and tallied only two runs apiece in the first two innings before going scoreless in the bottom of the third.

In the bottom of the fourth, however, the USA showed its mettle and tallied 20 runs on 18 hits including hitting six home runs. Through the first three innings, the USA had hit only two homers-two-run homer in the first by Brett Helmer and a two-run smash by Johnny McCraw in the second-and thus were smart to save their home runs when they were needed because of the 10 home run limit in the game. The best thing was the USA made their homers hurt because they came with runners on base, accounting for 13 of the 20 runs in the inning. The only solo homer was by Rick Baker.  But one of the biggest hits of the inning wasn't a homer when USA Coach Steve Shortland pinch-hit veteran BJ Fulk for shortstop Don DeDonatis in the fourth inning with the USA trailing by two runs, 18-16. Fulk smashed the first pitch delivered by Canadian hurler Chris Parr just inside the right field foul line for a two-run double to tie the game at 18 before Dennis Rulli smashed a three-run homer to put the USA into the lead for good, 21-18. Parr, the losing pitcher, allowed 24 of the 32 runs but only eight of them were earned.

Rulli batted last in the USA lineup and had an outstanding game on defense and offense. He had three hits in four at-bats and time and time again showed his prowess with the glove at third, making five assists and one putout. Each team made two errors, but the two Canada made came in the detrimental fourth inning and accounted for 14 unearned runs.

After scoring 18 runs in the first four innings, Team Canada's offense could muster only three runs in the last three innings, including not scoring in the sixth inning. The USA, meanwhile, kept the pressure on the Canadians and tallied eight runs in the sixth inning, finishing with 34 hits.
USA Head Coach Steve Shortland was presented the Border Battle trophy during post-game ceremonies on the field and had to be relieved his team finally got untracked.

"We got off to a slow start coming out flat the first couple of innings," said Shortland. "These guys showed some real heart in the way they battled back. I am really proud of the way they continued to fight and pulled out the win."
For the USA, Greg Connell drove in six runs going 4-for-5 with Baker also collecting four hits in five at-bats driving in three runs with a homer and a two-run double.

Canada, which lost 25-3 in Border Battle Three, collected 26 hits and now trails 3-1 in the Border Battle series. USA won the first 30-23 before Canada tied the series at 1-1 with a 30-29 win in 2010.

Canada pounded out 26 hits in the game. Todd Cadenhead led the way with three home runs and six runs batted in, while Parr had two home runs and  five RBI. Other homer runs came from Jeff Falardeau, Luc Chauvette and Claude Chiasson. Tim Bentley went two-for-three with two runs batted in, while Franck Henry collected four hits. Al Blais also chipped in with three hits.

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