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by Bob Fromer

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: July 23 -- The GB Women's Fastpitch Team achieved its first-ever victory at the World Cup of Softball today with a 3-2 walkoff win over the Czech Republic. Karlene Headley-Cooper drove a single through the right side of the infield with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning to decide the battle between the two European teams at this event.

Even then, the Czechs might have averted the winning run. Czech right fielder Eva Rendlova was playing very shallow for Karlene's at-bat, got to the ball quickly and should have thrown her out at first to end the inning. But Rendlova's throw was high and pulled Czech first base player Lucie Petraskova off the base while Laura Thompson crossed the plate with the winning run.

The two teams are likely to meet again in the fifth place playoff game on Monday before travelling to Italy to renew hostilities in the European Championships and World Championship Qualifier that will begin in Ronchi dei Legionari on July 31.

Friendly match...?

One GB player said, "The game almost felt like a friendly match," as if the teams were feeling each other out before the more meaningful competition in Italy. But at the same time, this was a game neither team wanted to lose.

Because of that, GB Head Coach Hayley Scott abandoned plans to rotate pitchers and stuck with guest pitcher Megan Brown for the full seven innings since the game was close. Megan pitched a four-hitter with no walks and set down the Czechs in order in four of the seven frames. Only three Czech batters struck out, but the GB defense played well, especially the infield, which recorded 17 of the Czech's 21 outs.

GB second base player Sarah Jones was especially busy, with seven assists and three putouts. Unfortunately, Sarah had to leave the game after being hit on the right arm by a pitch in the seventh inning, and x-rays later revealed that a bone in her arm was broken. This is a blow for GB, as Sarah has been playing exceptionally well ever since the team got to Oklahoma.

Czechs take the lead

Neither team scored during the first three innings. The Czechs went nine up and nine down while GB left four runners stranded during that time, but GB hitters were once again struggling with change-ups, this time thrown by Czech starter Kristyna Kalinova.

The Czechs took the lead in the top of the fourth through the time-honoured ploy of getting the lead runner on base. Megan Brown threw two change-ups in a row to lead-off hitter Lucie Petraskova, and she banged the second one to right field for a single. Anna Lemberkova bunted Petraskova to second, she took third on Lenka Jaklova's single and scored on Eva Rendlova's sacrifice fly that was caught in foul territory in left field.

GB comeback

The lead didn't last long.

Sarah Jones led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk. Karlene Headley-Cooper replaced Sarah on first by hitting into a fielder's choice and went to second on a wild pitch. A moment later, catcher Leah English lashed a double down the left-field line, scoring Karlene, and then first base player Morgan Parkerson drove another double over the head of left fielder Barbora Nemravova to score Leah.

Exit Kristyna Kalinova for the Czechs, and enter Petra Kriklanova, who struck out Naomi Jones and got Kristi Yoshizawa to hit a little line drive back to her to end the inning.

Tie score

The top of the Czech line-up is always dangerous, and the first three hitters combined to tie the score in the top of the sixth.

Initially, it was deju vu from the fourth inning: Lucie Petraskova singled and Anna Lemberkova bunted her to second. But this time, Petraskova moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Lenka Jaklova's hard-hit ball bouncer tipped off Kristi Yoshizawa's glove at third.

The denouement

After the Czechs went down in order in the top of the seventh on three ground balls to Sarah Jones, GB proceeded to win the game.Kristi

Yoshizawa popped up to start the inning, but Laura Thompson drew a walk and promptly stole second -- her third stolen base of the game against the weak-throwing Czech catcher, Eva Rychtarikova. With a 3-1 count on Stacie Townsend, the Czechs waved her to first for an intentional walk. Jess Legendre popped up to first base, but Sarah Jones' painful hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, and Steph Pearce went in to run as Sarah had to leave the field.

That brought up Karlene Headley-Cooper and her ground ball single to right field on a 1-1 count, and Eva Rendlova's failure to throw her out at first when the chance was there, ended the game.

Historic win

Today's game will have a little place in GB softball history as our first-ever win at the World Cup of Softball.

GB played in World Cup II, in 2006, and failed to win a game, but raised some eyebrows by losing only 7-6 to Japan (two years away from their Olympic triumph) and 1-0 to China. Now in World Cup VI, GB has a win, albeit not the scalp of a top-four team -- but GB came surprisingly close to beating Canada yesterday.

Tomorrow, GB will face the two top teams in the world -- Japan at 10.00 am and the USA at 4.00 pm. Wins are not expected, but GB will want to demonstrate that they can continue to play well, even against the very best.


Previous reports from the GB Women's Team in Oklahoma can be found on the Home Page and in the News section of this website.