OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Jennifer Caira and Canada seem to have America’s number at the World Cup of Softball.
Kaleigh Rafter homered and drove in three runs, and the Canadians beat the United States 4-3 on Saturday for their second straight win over the once-dominant Americans at the World Cup.
Despite never having won the title, Canada (3-1) is the only team ever to beat the U.S. more than once at the World Cup.
Before she became a two-time national player of the year and Women’s College World Series winner at Washington, Danielle Lawrie beat the U.S. in the first ever World Cup game in 2005. The U.S. hadn’t lost an international game in three years before that defeat.
The Canadians also beat the U.S. in last year’s event, although the Americans rebounded to win their fourth straight championship.
“We’ve played well against the U.S. national team here but we haven’t really had much success in the tournament itself,” Rafter said. “So, getting to the championship game would for sure be big for us.”
The Americans (2-1), featuring no Olympic veterans on this year’s squad, are now in jeopardy of missing the World Cup final for the first time. They play 2008 Olympic gold medalist Japan later Saturday night and need to win to maintain any chance at reaching the championship game Monday night.
“It’s a big game. We’re in the pressure cooker. It’s on,” said Kaitlin Cochran, who hit a solo home run in the second for the U.S. “We either get it done or we don’t. But that’s how champions rise, right?”
Caira (2-0) beat the U.S. for the second straight year at the World Cup, giving up two runs in five innings. She pitched the first four innings, then was replaced by Jocelyn Cater for two innings, before re-entering in the seventh to get out of a jam.
Keilani Ricketts had a pinch hit RBI single in the seventh, and the U.S. had the tying run on third when Stacy May-Johnson grounded back to Caira to end the game.
“They were gutty. I don’t think you can say much else,” said Rafter, the catcher. “I don’t know if they had their best stuff, but they were in there every pitch just gutting it out and they threw awesome. They came through in the clutch.”
Melanie Matthews started the game by smacking a ground-rule double to the gap in right, and Canada quickly got to Chelsea Thomas (0-1). Victoria Hayward drew a walk before Rafter lined a two-run double to right. Thomas let Rafter get to third on a wild pitch but then avoided any further damage in the first.
Rafter answered Cochran’s homer with her own blast to center in the third, and Canada extended its lead to 4-1 on Hayward’s RBI groundout in the fourth.
“I was looking for one pitch on that first one and I got it and I actually put a good swing on it, so that was good for me. Then the second time through, I figured they’d do something a little different,” Rafter said.
Thomas, who got the save in the Americans’ first two World Cup games, wasn’t as sharp in her first World Cup start.
“I didn’t feel like I had a lot of pop on the ball today,” Thomas said. “Sometimes you have those days, and you’ve just got to learn from the experience and see where it can take you next time.”
Cochran singled and scored on Valerie Arioto’s double in the fourth. Cater snuffed out a U.S. rally in the sixth by striking out the side to leave two runners stranded. Caira then re-entered with two aboard and no outs in the seventh to finish it off.
The U.S. has already lost to Japan three times this month in four meetings at the Canada Cup.
“We’re better than what we’re playing right now,” Thomas said, “and we all want to show it.”