July 25, 1996
Tough loss for Canada
By TERRY JONES -- Team Sun
COLUMBUS, Georgia - They've had a hankering of how it's been back home. They suspect that the country has become sort of smitten with their squad.
Their phones have been ringing, and the FAX machine at Fort Benning has been humming.
Maybe it was because they made themselves the only Canadians to cheer as the nation waits for Super Saturday and the motherlode of medals, perhaps more in one day than in the rest of the Olympics combined.
Maybe it was the TV time and their high-wire act in winning one game in the 10th inning and another by breaking a shutout in their last at bat after having managed to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
Maybe it was the way they handled themselves when a controversial foul ball call turned what looked like a 3-2 win over China into a 2-1 loss.
Maybe it's so simple that they're the only team we have with a snowball's hope in Atlanta of winning a medal and breaking a 64-year drought of not having won a team sport medal at the summer Olympics.
And because they were hearing that they had maybe captured the country a bit from 150 kilometres away from the real action in Atlanta, maybe it got to them last night against Japan.
This game had nothing of the first three as Canada lost 4-0 to slip into a fourth-place tie with Australia at 2-2 with Japan jumping into a second place tie with China at 3-1. The top four teams in the round-robin advance to the medal round.
This would have been a great game to win. But this team, you may have noticed, doesn't make anything easy.
"We just weren't mentally ready,'' said manager Chick Kennedy of Prince Albert, Sask., who held a half-hour meeting with the team in the dressing room while they waited out a thunderstorm which struck with heavy rains after the last out.
"Our goal when we came here was to make the playoffs and we still have our destiny in our own hands,'' said Kennedy. "It looks like this could come down to Canada and Australia.''
"We know we have a lot of support back home,'' said third baseman Christine Paris-Washington of Truro, N. S. "Maybe we don't need to know that.''
Kennedy said it's something you want. Handled right, it ought to be a major motivator.
"It brings up the expectation level. But the support has been awesome. And I don't think it's gone to our heads.''
Left-hander Debbie Sonnenberg of Leduc started, was wild in the first inning in giving up a run but seemed to settle down and get into a groove. But then she gave up a two-run homer to Japan's clean-up hitter Yoshiuto Fijimoto in the fourth.
Four games into this tournament in the hottest venue at these Olympics and the Canadian bats remain cold in the heart of the order. Karen Doell, Juanita Clayton and Alicia Stevenson are a combined three-for-30. And Doell has the three.
That's not good news considering what's up next.
Tonight they play the Dream Team. No, not Michael Jordan and the boys. Dot Richardson and the American girls.
Going into Canada-USA tonight, the Americans record internationally in the last 10 years is 114-1.
You have to go back to the Pan-Am Games in Venezuela in 1983 to find a Canadian win over the Americans. After being beat 6-0 and 7-1 by the U.S. earlier in the tournament, Canada won 5-4 in the gold-medal game. That was the first and last time Canada beat the Americans in women's softball.
I mean, there's the Dream Team and then there is this team.
In world championship play, the USA has amassed a lifetime record of 74-9. The U.S. offences have outscored their opponents collectively 446-33 in world championship games. And out of the 74 wins, 53 have been by shutout.
At the Pan-Ams, their totals are equally impressive with an overall record of 51-3, 44 by shutout and a run differential of 197-7.
Put the Worlds and Pan-Ams together and that's a lifetime US record of 125-12 with 97 shutouts and the Americans out-scoring their opponents 806-85.
Here the Americans are off to a 4-0 record with 10-0, 9-0, 6-1 and 4-0 wins. That's 29 runs scored, one allowed.
You get the idea.
Who will play U.S.?
It's a virtual guarantee that they're going to be in the gold medal game. The question is who will be in there with them.
Canada, after the U.S. game, winds up the eight-team round-robin event with a night game against the Netherlands tomorrow and a morning game against Australia Saturday.
Can Canada beat the mighty Americans?
"We can beat them,'' said Sonnenberg. "We can beat anybody in the world.''
Paris-Washington says, no they can't. Not the way they've played here so far. They're going to have to unveil their `A' game now.
"If we play good ball, we're capable. But to date, we haven't played good ball.''