Tough 1-0 loss to China for GB Women at Worlds

Sat 4 Aug 2018

By Bob Fromer

Saturday 4 August – Beth Fleming pitched an outstanding game today against one of the world’s top teams, the GB defense played excellent and errorless softball, and GB out-hit China 4-2.  But China found a run where GB couldn’t, and escaped with a 1-0 win at the Women’s World Championship.

For GB, the loss is going to make it tough to win the four games they need in the round-robin phase of the tournament to reach the Championship playoffs.  With three of the traditional top four teams in the world in their group – Japan, Canada and Australia – GB had to be targeting China, Italy, Botswana and Venezuela for those precious four wins, and now one of those chances is gone.

GB’s next game, at 7.00 pm on Sunday local time (11.00 am in the UK) will be against Japan.  GB has never beaten the former World and reigning Olympic champions, but has had a number of close games with them, including a 4-2 loss in the last Women’s World Championship in Canada in 2016, where GB out-hit the Japanese and had chances to win.  GB will now have to go all out for an upset tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow’s game against Japan – and all games from the World Championship -- can be seen on https://www.baseballsoftball.tv

Familiar story

The 1-0 loss to China today at the NASPA Stadium is a movie that GB has seen a lot in recent years – the one where the British team plays a great game of softball against one of the world’s leading countries but still comes out on the losing end.

This loss will be all the more galling because China’s run, scored in the bottom of the sixth inning, was the result of a one-out pop fly from lead-off hitter Qi Li that fell just fair behind third base and just out of the reach of GB shortstop Sydney Brown and third base player Chelsea D’Avilar.  It was the first hit that 19-year-old Beth Fleming had given up since QI Li had led off the game for China in the bottom of the first inning with a single to right field.

What followed was a passed ball that got Li to third and then a sacrifice fly to left field by Jia Chen.

After the sacrifice fly, the second out in the inning, Georgina Corrick came on in relief to get the third out on a fly ball to left field.  But China had that one huge run that GB had been unable to manufacture.

In the top of the seventh inning, Lauren Evans lined a single to right field with one out, Aubrey Peterson came in to pinch-run, and Emmilee Blowers came in to pinch hit and lay down a sacrifice bunt that put Aubrey in scoring position at second base.

But Chloe Wigington, who already had a hit in the game, could only push a weak line drive to shortstop, and China had their second 1-0 win of the tournament (the first came on Friday against Australia).
 

Great pitching

In what was a classic pitcher’s duel, Chinese starter Wang Lan was also exceptional.  She gave up four hits, two of them infield singles by Nerissa Myers, but was amazingly accurate and economical, throwing only 74 pitches in seven innings, 63 of them for strikes.  Lan struck out 11 GB hitters, six of them looking at pitches just on or maybe just off the corners.

In contrast, Beth Fleming pitched to contact, striking out only one Chinese hitter.  But most of that contact was weak, and the GB infield was on top of the Chinese short game, dealing effectively with the bunts, pushes and slaps.  The hardest-hit ball of the game for China was probably the game-winning sacrifice fly, that drove GB left fielder Hayley D’Avilar back towards the fence to make the catch.

Understandably, Beth might have been nervous facing a team like China on this stage, and the first inning was definitely her hardest.  After Qi Li led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Huan Li, Beth hit Jia Chen with a pitch.  Qi Li moved to third when Ying Lu flew out to right field and Jia Chen stole second base to give China runners on second and third with two out.

But Min Ren grounded back to the pitcher, and from the second to the sixth inning, Beth faced only the minimum number of 12 Chinese hitters, with her one walk of the game in the fifth inning erased on a double play.  It was a great performance by a young pitcher in only her second summer of international softball.
 

Missed chances

When GB did have baserunners, they tended to lose them.

With one out in the top of the first inning, Nerissa Myers reached base on a bunt single.  But when Lauren Evans missed a sacrifice bunt try, Nerissa was hung up between first and second base and tagged out.

When Chloe Wigington pushed a single past first base and into right field with one out in the second inning, the next two batters struck out.

When Nerissa Myers reach base again leading off the top of the fourth inning on a bunt pushed towards second base, she was immediately erased on a 5-4-3 double play.

It was only in their last at-bat in the top of the seventh inning that GB got a runner to second base – but no further.

The wait for GB to get over the hump, and turn one of these close losses to the world’s best teams into a win, goes on.

Scores


Here are the scores from the tournament so far from Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday:

Thursday 2 August
Japan 9, Italy 0 (6 inns)

Friday 3 August
Japan 9, Italy 0 (6 inns)
Chinese Taipei 21, South Africa 0 (4 inns)
Australia 7, Venezuela 1
USA 5, Mexico 2
Canada 7, GB 0 (5 inns)
Puerto Rico 6, Netherlands 5
Philippines 10, South Africa 0 (4 inns)
China 1, Australia 0
Japan 20, Botswana 0
Chinese Taipei 7, New Zealand 4
Canada 7, Venezuela 0

Saturday 4 August
Australia 3. Italy 2
Puerto Rico 9, South Africa 0
China 1, GB 0
Mexico 2, Philippines 0
Canada 1, Italy 0
Venezuela 8, Botswana 0
USA 7, Chinese Taipei 0
Japan 5, China 0
Netherlands 10, New Zealand 5
Puerto Rico 3, Philippines 0

All scores and pool standings can be found on: https://wswc.wbsc.org/schedule-and-results.


Photos by Simon Mortimer

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