Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CANADA SUMMER GAMES: Nothing soft about premier pitchers

Manitoba squad boasts two of Canada's best

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THEY throw, when you factor in the much closer pitching distance, as hard as Nolan Ryan did when he was regularly touching three figures.

And they do it more effectively than almost anyone else in the country.

Team Manitoba softball pitchers Amanda Greenberg and Sarah Shotton are widely considered to be among the premier softball pitchers in the Canadian game and they are a big part of the reason why Manitoba is 6-1 at the Canada Games in Prince Edward Island heading into a first place showdown with B.C. this morning.

Shotton has a stingy 1.29 ERA heading into today, while Greenberg has yet to give up a run in the competition and came within one walk in the final inning against Alberta Tuesday evening of pitching a perfect game.

In a sport where pitchers throw from just 40 feet away and a 65-mile-per hour fastball looks to a batter like a 100 mile-per-hour fastball does in baseball, having just one dominant pitcher can carry a team a long way.

But having two, like Manitoba does, is a luxury few teams can boast.

"Ninety per cent of softball is the pitching," provincial softball coach Bev Neufeld said in a phone interview from P.E.I. Wednesday. "It's such a pitching dominated sport.

"Even in the younger groups because the pitching distance is so close, the advantage is always to the pitcher.

"The top-calibre pitchers in Canada -- our two girls, two girls from B.C. and probably the one from Ontario -- their fastballs will all be in around 65 m.p.h.

"So from 40 feet away, it's just like in baseball if someone's throwing 90-100 m.p.h. As a hitter, you just don't have the time."

The only loss for Manitoba so far came Wednesday morning against Ontario. Shotton pitched a five-hit gem, with 11 strikeouts, for Manitoba but the one run she did give up was too much as Ontario pitcher Natalie Becker threw a 15-strikeout no-hitter to earn the victory and improve Ontario's record to 6-0.

"It was a tough one to lose, but we can't win if we don't get the hits," said St. Vital's Shotton.

"But I really think we have a chance to get back on top. That was a close loss to Ontario and they're ranked not too far under B.C. And then I think it would be us ranked third. So it makes me feel like we could beat B.C."

Ontario won again later in the day to improve to 7-0, the same record as B.C. heading into today. Manitoba will face B.C. this morning in what will be a rematch of sorts. B.C. beat Manitoba in the final of the recently completed softball nationals.

Greenberg was on the hill for that one and would like a taste of revenge today en route to turning that silver into gold.

Neufeld said she was leaning toward sending Greenberg out this morning against B.C. And that suited Greenberg fine. "Absolutely," she said. "For sure I'd like the ball."

The round-robin ends today, with the top four teams advancing to Friday's playoff round. Manitoba is alone in third heading into today and has already clinched at least a share of fourth place.

Team Manitoba recorded no medals in P.E.I. on Wednesday, but they do have a chance on the court today when Winnipeggers Sean Bailey and Chad Lacap play in the bronze-medal game of men's doubles tennis.

Manitoba also has rowers competing in six different finals today.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2009 C4

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