Rafter gets first win, Canada triples Netherlands
GUELPH – Canadian national women’s softball team head coach Kaleigh Rafter picked up her first win in her very first time as the bench boss as the Canadian squad tripled the Netherlands 6-2 in the opening game of the team’s Tokyo 2020 Celebration Tour Thursday night at Exhibition Park.
“What an awesome turnout,” Rafter said. “What an awesome night. The weather was awesome. The field was great, the fans — such a good turnout. What a way to start.”
That the win came there was fitting as it’s the park where Rafter got her start in softball.
“I remember my first trial ever was here,” Rafter said. “I remember going out and trying out for Jim O’Gorman’s Guelph Gators. I think I was in sixth grade so I tried out for a 7-8 novice team in sixth grade. I came over from baseball. I do remember my first home run over the fences here. I had some pretty special memories, obviously Nationals here once or twice. Lots and lots of memories, driving in all of them just came flooding back.”
Rafter completed her competitive playing days last year in Tokyo as catcher of the Olympic bronze medal-winning Canadian squad. She became head coach of the Canadian team a couple of months later.
Thursday, the Canadians had nine hits in the match and they never trailed. Canada led 1-0 after the first inning and 3-1 after the second before extending the lead to 5-1 in the fourth.
Rafter never left the dugout, except to make a pitching change.
“I pride myself in making plans, talking with the hitters and making sure they’re good when they go out there,” Rafter said. “That was kind of a good way to be in there, but, obviously, not on the field is way more nerve wreaking. I’m way more nervous coaching than I ever was playing because there’s very much a lack of control, but just to see them come out here and play pretty free in front of what was an amazing crowd was a pretty good experience.”
In the first, Erika Polidori hit a single with two out and she went to third on Alysen Febrey’s ground-rule double. Polidori scored on a wild pitch.
Cindy Van der Zanden tied it for the Netherlands with a homer in the top of the second while Canada scored two in the bottom of the inning on a double by Larissa Franklin.
The women in red and white added two more runs in the fourth on solo homers by Kianna Jones and Franklin.
The Netherlands collected their final run in the fifth on a solo homer by Laura Wissink.
Kelsey Harshman knocked in Canada’s other run with a single in the sixth.
Franklin finished with a homer, double and three RBIs to lead Canada at the plate. Jones had her homer while Febrey hit a double. Getting one single apiece were Polidori, Harshman, Janet Leung, Emma Entzminger and Emma Dorval.
Canada used three pitchers in the game as Ruby Anderson started and was relieved by Nicola Simpson in the fourth. She pitched two innings as did Morgan Rackel.
Anderson picked up the win as she held the Netherlands to a single run on two hits and she had a strikeout. Simpson gave up a run in her stint of an inning and two-thirds. Rackel had the save as she kept the Netherlands hitless the rest of the way. Rackel had two strikeouts.
“A complete game, the hitters did well and I thought the pitchers did awesome today,” Rafter said. “We challenged them. Can we command the zone? Can we establish strikes? They had a few big swings, but for the most part we kept them off balance all game and I thought the defence behind them was stellar tonight.”
The four-game Celebration Tour is to continue Friday at 7 p.m. in Oshawa and conclude with a doubleheader in Brampton Saturday. First game at the Old Fairgrounds diamond is to start at noon.
- Guelph Sports Journal