GB U-19 Women finish with loss to the Dutch

Sat 29 Jul 2017


By Bob Fromer

Clearwater, Florida, USA: 28 July – The 2017 WBSC Junior Women’s World Championship came to an end today for the GB Under-19 Team after another frustrating loss, this time by 2-0 to the Netherlands in a tight and well-played game that might have gone either way.

The loss was frustrating for many reasons, but one was the fact that the format used in this tournament not only severely restricted the number of teams that could qualify for Championship playoffs, but also meant that teams could incur all the time and cost of playing in the World Championship and only get six games in a seven-day tournament.  National teams and their Federations deserve better.

The other frustration, of course, was that the GB Team was unable to score any runs in a game in which GB pitchers restricted the Dutch to just four hits and two runs.  Starting pitcher Beth Fleming, who pitched the first three innings, and Georgina Corrick, who pitched the last four, both did an excellent job and gave up just one run each.

But the GB offense managed only three hits against Dutch pitcher Lisa Hop, who pitched a complete game, failed to take advantage of her early wildness, and were unlucky in that some hard-hit balls later in the game went straight to Dutch fielders.

GB had baserunners in each of the first five innings, but couldn’t really mount a serious scoring threat and got only one runner to third base in the game.  And in the first inning, when Lisa Hop was struggling with control, hitting Casey Moritz with a pitch and then walking Megan Parno, a potential rally was cut short by a pick-off at first base.

Dutch runs​

For the second time in the tournament, GB pitcher Beth Fleming demonstrated astonishing self-possession and determination after making a potentially costly mistake.

On Monday, against China, Beth gave up a single to the first batter, wild-pitched her to second and third – and then struck out the side to get out of the jam.

Today, in the first inning against the Netherlands, with one out, Beth fielded a bunt by Yindi Beekveldt and threw the ball high over the head of Laura Hirai covering first and down the right field line as Beekveldt went all the way to third.  But Beth took a deep breath and struck out Feline Poot and Rhowan Stuart, the Dutch three and four hitters, leaving Beekveldt at third base.

Unfortunately, another pattern from the China game repeated itself in this one.  Against China, Beth Fleming threw three scoreless innings, then gave up a run in the fourth when the Chinese hitters saw her for the second time.

Today, against the Dutch, Beth threw an even better first three innings, giving up only one hit.  But Yindi Beekveldt, the first batter in the top of the fourth inning, hit a long triple to the fence in left centre field and Feline Poot followed with a sharp single up the middle, and the Dutch were on the board.

At that point, Georgina Corrick came in to pitch, got out of the inning, and retired the Dutch in order in the fifth and sixth.

In the top of the seventh inning, however, with one out, Georgina hit the speedy Ismay Poot with a pitch.  Poot stole second and then third, and scored an important insurance run for the Dutch on catcher Tammie Lijbers’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Three groundouts in the bottom of the seventh inning brought GB’s World Championship to an end.

The GB Team has finished with a record of two wins and four losses, and will end up somewhere between 13th and 16th place depending on other results, which is not what the team was looking for coming in to the tournament.

But the team has played well against very strong opposition (see the section below on other playoff results) and has not been outclassed or overwhelmed by anyone.  On the other hand, there have been mistakes at crucial times that have cost runs, and the GB offense has not been strong enough to overcome them.  In short, the team may not have maximised its undoubted potential.

Heart to heart​

After the game, GB Head Coach Rachael Watkeys and the other coaches had a long talk with the players on the grass behind the diamond where they had just played.

“I’m gutted,” Rachael told the group, “because we have so much talent, and it’s disappointing that we will finish this low.  There are a huge number of positives we can take from the week, and everyone made important contributions, but we didn’t achieve what we needed to achieve as a team.  We need to find a way to put our feelings and passion into our play.”

Pitching coach Lindsey Meadows, who pitches for the Dutch National Team and has a long history in European softball, said, “This is the best pitching staff I’ve ever seen in a GB team, and there is a huge amount of talent and potential here.  It’s always going to be an issue with GB Softball that you don’t get to play and work together as much as other teams.  But you can let that hold you back, or you can decide that you will achieve your goals regardless.  If this team can learn to fight together for what you want, it will be very hard to stop you.”

“The goal for our programme now is the Olympic Qualifier in 2019,” Rachael Watkeys said, “and we are right there with the other top teams in Europe.  We can get to the Olympics!  What you need to do is push the players on the Senior Team, push them for places in the World Championship in Japan next year and the Olympic Qualifier the year after.  How cool would that be – to play in an Olympic Qualifier?  I would love to see some of you do that, but you have to really want it.

“The players who live in Great Britain live and breathe GB Softball all year round,” Rachael added, “because that’s all they have.  The rest of you who live in other countries have high school softball, or college softball, or travel ball softball every day.  But you’ve still got to be British every day of the year.  Put a British flag on your wall, or your GB uniform, and look at it every day.  And keep learning and fighting to be part of the British team that gets that place in Tokyo.”

Elsewhere….

Both Championship and Placement playoffs began today, and there was an upset up at the top of the tournament, with China eliminating Australia by a score of 2-0, while Canada had a 5-2 lead over the defending champions Japan before Japan finally prevailed by 8-7.

In the Placement playoffs to determine places 9-16, among other results, Mexico beat Brazil 10-3, Korea eased past Guatemala 9-1 and Ireland smashed Israel 16-1.

The wins today for China, Mexico, Korea and Ireland -- the other teams in GB's first-round pool group, plus Canada's near miss against Japan, demonstrate what a tough group the GB Under-19 Women were in, and puts their overall record in the tournament in a better perspective.


Photos by Simon Mortimer

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