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Softball team stuck in Toronto

Performance-wise, it was a less than inspiring trip for Team Bahamas at the 2019 Pan American Softball Championships in what is known as “Softball City” – Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, falling to the Dominican Republic (DR) in their placement game on Friday. The women’s national team was shut out 16-0 to the DR, via the mercy rule in just three innings, and finished 10th overall at the regional softball championships that wrapped up on Sunday. The only game they won in the tournament that was sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), was by forfeiture over Argentina.

Instead of performance assessment on Monday, first and foremost on the mind of Team Bahamas Head Coach Shane Albury was the state of affairs of the sporting community, and Bahamians in general, following the passing of Hurricane Dorian. The powerful category five storm devastated the Northern Bahamas on Sunday and Monday.

Swirling winds and inclement weather in and around New Providence forced the cancellation of the team’s flight back to The Bahamas yesterday morning, and they find themselves stuck in Toronto, Canada, for a couple of days. They are now scheduled to return to the capital on Wednesday.

“Yesterday morning (Sunday) I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched videos and saw pictures of the destruction,” said Albury. “The storm has affected many of us and by extension it’s affecting all of us. It’s during times like these that we must put aside our differences, join forces and support our fellow Bahamians.”

A number of team members and officials hail from Grand Bahama, and are understandably concerned about the safety of their families and friends and the conditions of their homes and island infrastructure. Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) Vice President and Head of Delegation Helena Cooper, Team Manager Yvonne Lockhart, Pitching Coach Nerissa Lockhart, Team Captain Larikah Russell and third baseman/catcher Altavia Hall are all from Grand Bahama. At one point, Hall shared the tournament lead for hits. She finished the tournament with a .500 batting average, going 4-for-8.

“Of course, we’re concerned about the safety of all Bahamians,” said Albury. “My sincere thoughts and prayers are extended to all families affected by the hurricane. I encourage the entire sporting community to render support for the afflicted. There are many ways we can unite to assist our fellow Bahamians by showing our true allegiance to the black, gold and aquamarine.”

As far as the tournament is concerned, just the top two finishers, host country Canada and Mexico, qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, joining host nation Japan, the World Champions United States and the winner of the Europe/Africa qualifier Italy as five of the six nations to be qualified for Tokyo 2020. There’s just one spot remaining, and that will be determined at the next WBSC qualifier – an eight-team WBSC Softball Asia/Oceania Qualifier which will take place in Shanghai, China, from September 24-28.

 Mexico finished the super round of the Pan Am tournament with an unblemished 3-0 win-loss record, and Canada was 2-1, losing its only game to Mexico. Third and fourth place finishers Puerto Rico and Brazil joined Mexico and Canada as the first four qualifiers for the WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup 2021.

The Bahamas was the lowest ranked team in the eight-day tournament, losing five games by a combined score of 69-4. After scoring four runs in their first game of the tournament, in a 9-4 loss to Guatemala, the team was shut out the rest of the way.

“We undoubtedly faced an uphill battle before the first ball was pitched,” said Albury. “We knew the caliber of play was extremely high, the team would face good pitching, defense, offense and speed. In addition to that having to play three top 20 teams and two top five teams in the world did not help. At that level of play perfection is not required but you better be pretty close.

“Our team defense was mediocre at best. Several games the team missed several routine plays and paid for it every time. Our batters did not make the necessary adjustments on numerous occasions hence the lack of base runners and scoring. Nonetheless, we had several bright spots on both sides of the ball but not nearly enough, and with little consistency to remain competitive.”

In the team’s final game against the DR, Ramona Hanna suffered the loss, failing to get out of the first inning. She gave up four hits and seven runs. Thela Johnson and Valencia Gibson came on in relief, and didn’t fare much better. Johnson gave up six hits and six runs, and Gibson surrendered four hits and three runs. All three pitchers recorded two outs each. On offense, The Bahamas had just three hits. Eduarda Rocha pitched all three innings and got the win for the DR. Lead-off batter Anabel Ulloa Rodriguez, and fifth and sixth place batters Clari Saldaña Tejeda and Geovanny Nuñez Garcia all finished a perfect 3-for-3 for the DR. Ulloa Rodriguez drove in four and scored three, Saldaña Tejeda drove in four and scored once, and Nuñez Garcia had two RBIs and scored once.

Despite the lopsided losses in the tournament, Albury feels optimistic about the make-up of the team going forward and the prospect for the future of Bahamian women’s softball.

“Despite our shortfall we have a tremendous amount of talented athletes,” he said. “Personally, it’s an injustice to the sport and to our athletes, to be given the limited amount of resources that have been allocated. Our training and development program needs to be revamped with the mentality of elite athletes and teams. This requires commitment, sacrifice, competitive play, travel ball, funding and a complete shift in the rebranding of the sport.

“The Bahamas has the athletes to compete on the world stage with success. However, our lack of planning on various levels inclusive of players, coaches, federation, government and private entities must be aligned before we can reap the benefits of having softball in The Bahamas return to qualifying status.”

The Bahamas is ranked at number 39 in the world, while a number of countries which participated are highly ranked. Canada is at number three, Puerto Rico is number four, and Mexico is ranked at number five. Six more were in the top 20. It was an uphill battle for The Bahamas throughout.

The best female softballers from 12 countries across North America, South America and the Caribbean competed for the Olympic dream in Surrey.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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