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The Comeback Nation Slams Its Way To Gold In the Men’s Softball World Championship

Monday, July 17th, 2017

JOEL EVANS, seen batting in an earlier game against Australia, smashed a grand slam home run as New Zealand beat Australia, 6-4, in the Gold Medal game of the 2017 Men’s Softball World Championship in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, Sunday, July 16, 2017. ANTHONY AU-YEUNG / PHOTOSPORT

WHITEHORSE, YUKON, Canada – Call the New Zealand fastpitch team what you will, the comeback nation or the never-say-die fastballers, as both monikers personify their amazing performance in the 2017 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship.

Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning of the Gold Medal game, Joel Evans blasted a grand slam home run to help New Zealand claim the world championship with a 6-4 victory over the Australia Steelers at the Pepsi Softball Centre, Sunday afternoon.

It was the second meeting of the ball clubs, as New Zealand took a 6-2 win in the opening round of championship playoffs among the top-eight teams.

BRIMMING WITH GOLD

For New Zealand, this becomes their seventh world championship. The Black Sox have won Gold in 2013, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1984 and 1976 (shared with USA and Canada after weather halted the tournament).

“I’m really proud of the way they performed and how hard they worked to get to this stage,” said New Zealand Head Coach Mark Sorenson in a post-game interview. “It’s about never giving up and building pressure. Once we started getting quality at bats, we started to build that pressure.”

Click to continue reading “The Comeback Nation Slams Its Way To Gold In the Men’s Softball World Championship”

Australia holds off Canada to move into the Gold Medal game of the Men’s Softball World Championship

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Adam Foulard turned in an effective relief effort to help Australia defeat Canada, 7-3, in the Bronze Medal game of the 2017 Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, Sunday, July 17. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2016 ISC World Tournament

WHITEHORSE, YK, Canada – It’s been eight long years since Australia last won a world championship. After winning three straight playoff games, they’ll once again be battling for the Gold Medal.

Thanks to James Todhunter and Nick Shailes who homered and Adam Folkard, who turned in an effective relief job, Australia defeated Canada 7-3 at the Pepsi Softball Centre, Sunday.

With little time for rest, Australia (8-3) will be back on the ball diamond to take on New Zealand (8-1) in the Gold Medal game, while 2015 defending world champion Canada (8-2) leaves the tournament as the Bronze medalist.

LONG BALL BOMBERS

With Australia clinging to a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, Todhunter squared up on a Sean Cleary rise ball sending it deep over the centerfield fence for a two-run home run, and Shailes homered over the left-field wall to give the Steelers a 7-1 lead, chasing Cleary in favor of Devon McCullough.

But Canada’s big bats wouldn’t go lightly.

Click to continue reading “Australia holds off Canada to move into the Gold Medal game of the Men’s Softball World Championship”

United States defeats Australia for crucial win in softball world championship

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

WHITEHORSE, YK, Canada – The defense? Stellar. The pitching? Superb. The offense? Clutch.

Team USA put together an outstanding game to defeat Australia, 2-1, in the second round of the 2017 Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse, Saturday.

And it was without a doubt a team win.

Let’s start with the pitching.

Jeremy Manley started and went five innings giving up just two hits – one of them a first-inning home run to Nick Shailes that gave the Aussies the early lead.

Often, that’s all the run support Aussie hurler Adam Folkard needs. Considered by many fastpitch experts as the best pitcher in all of men’s fastpitch, he can be nearly impossible to hit with his 80-plus mph riser and drop.

Click to continue reading “United States defeats Australia for crucial win in softball world championship”

Hill United Chiefs open fastball season in Peter Hallman classic that features six ISC top-ranked teams

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER – Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time. His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

SIX NATIONS, ONTARIO, CA – The No. 1 ranked Hill United Chiefs opens its fastball season at the 2017 Peter Hallman Memorial Fastball Tournament in St. Clements, Ontario, June 23-25.

Topping the International Softball Congress (ISC) early-season poll, the Chiefs return with a star-studded lineup that includes the world’s top pitcher, Australian right-hander Adam Folkard, who has led the team to ISC World Tournament championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Along with runner-up in 2016.

Click to continue reading “Hill United Chiefs open fastball season in Peter Hallman classic that features six ISC top-ranked teams”

Nicholas Mercer: The violence of throwing a softball

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER - Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time.  His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER – Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time. His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

The Telegram Sports
By Nicholas Mercer
Sept. 12, 2016

ST. JOHNS, NL – Seeing high-level fastpitch softball play out on a computer screen over a webcast doesn’t do the game justice.

Nor does it allow the average fan to appreciate just what goes into throwing the softball very hard at the plate.

When you’re watching the game 20-feet from the pitching rubber, it’s easy to see the webcast sells the act incredibly short.

A hush falls over the crowd as the pitcher takes his signs from the catcher. They’re counting on seeing something great with every pitch.

That sense of anticipation only heightens when the pitcher rocks back before leaping towards the plate and uncoiling a ball that travels at ungodly speeds.

Continue Reading in The Telegram

In The Spotlight: Australian pitchers Andrew Kirkpatrick and Adam Folkard superb in ISF and ISC

Sunday, August 28th, 2016
AUSTRALIA'S AND NEW YORK GREMLINS GREAT LEFTY - Andrew Kirkpatrick has helped Australia win ISF and WBSC world championships, and in the 2016 ISC World Tournament, he pitched the New York Gremlins to third place with a 3-1 record that gives him 39 wins in world tournament competition. Photo by BOB OTTO

AUSTRALIA’S AND NEW YORK GREMLINS GREAT LEFTY – Andrew Kirkpatrick has helped Australia win ISF and WBSC world championships, and in the 2016 ISC World Tournament, he pitched the New York Gremlins to third place with a 3-1 record that gives him 39 wins in world tournament competition. Photo by BOB OTTO

YUCAIPA, Calif. – In fastpitch circles, Andrew Kirkpatrick and Adam Folkard are household names, as recognizable as baseball Hall of Fame pitchers Sandy Kolfax and Walter Johnson.

And surely, once Kirkpatrick and Folkard’s fastpitch careers come to an end and they become eligible, induction into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame awaits them.

But before we talk about their ISC careers, let’s take a look at what these two have meant to their native Australia.

The highest level of men’s fastpitch is the International Softball Federation World Championship, (since surplanted by the World Baseball Softball Confederation). It pits country-against-country battling for world domination.

And in recent world championships, Australia always contends for a title because of Kirkpatrick and Folkard.

Since 2004, Australia has won the Bronze twice, fourth once, and in 2009 took the Gold by beating New Zealand, 5-0, led by the superb pitching of Folkard, who was just two walks away from a perfect game. Through much of the ISF competition, both men have been mainstays for their country.

FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER - Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time.  His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

FIVE-TIME ISC TOP PITCHER – Adam Folkard has won five ISC Most Outstanding Pitcher awards, and has led Australia to titles in the ISF and WBSC World Championships. In 2016, he pitched the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, Canada to runner-up in the ISC World Tournament and was named an All-World pitcher for a eighth time. His 4-1 record gives him 39 wins all-time in ISC World Tournament play. Photo By BOB OTTO

And in the junior men’s program (age 19-under), Australia won four consecutive ISF World Championships (1997, 2001, 2005, 2008). Folkard and Kirkpatrick played huge rolls in winning the titles in 2001 and 2005.

So these two great pitchers will forever be linked when Australian’s reminisce about the “greatest ever” to play for their national softball team.

But Kirkpatrick and Folkard’s footprint extends far beyond Australia. In the United States and Canada – and virtually every corner of the fastpitch world – they are celebrities of immense proportion. Most notably in the International Softball Congress (ISC) World Tournament.

  • Both have created fabulous ISC careers, and are far from finished. Let’s look at their numbers in World Tournament competition.
  • NUMBER OF TIMES SELECTED ALL-WORLD

  • Kirkpatrick, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015
  • Folkard, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
  • If you’re counting, that’s eight times each. Well it gets even closer in what really counts for pitchers at the World Tournament – wins.

    At the conclusion of the 2016 ISC World Tournament, Kirkpatrick had a 3-1 record in leading the New York Gremlins to a third place finish, while Folkard was 4-1 for the runner-up Hill United Chiefs.

    So where do they stand all-time among pitchers with the most World Tournament wins? In a dead heat at 39 each, trailing Korrey Gareau with 40.

    And in reaching number 39, both pitchers leapfrogged Dean Holoien, Frank Cox and Brad Underwood tied at 36. And they pushed past Ty Stofflet (37) and Doug Middleton (38).

    In the 70-year history of the ISC World Tournament, only eight pitchers remain perched above Kirkpatrick and Folkard in most wins all-time. At the 2017 World Tournament, it’s conceivable that they could surpass Gareau, and perhaps tie or even get past Paul Algar and Todd Martin with 42 each.

    However, Folkard does have a leg up over Kirkpatrick in a couple of areas. In most consecutive wins, Folkard has 22 (No. 2 all-time, trailing only Gerald Muizelaar with 23), while Kirkpatrick had a string of 13 wins from 2004-2007.

    And as for the most coveted individual honor for pitchers in the World Tournament, Folkard reigns as co-king with five Most Outstanding Pitcher awards tied with the legendary Leroy Zimmerman for whom the award is named.

    Kirkpatrick has one MOP honor, coming in 2006 when he pitched County Materials of Madison, Wisc. to the title.

    Both pitchers appear in good health. Both pitchers can still hit the catcher’s glove with plenty of pop and movement. Both pitchers are two of the most competitive to ever step in the circle. So it’s conceivable that fastpitch fans will be enjoying Kirkpatrick and Folkard’s ISF, WBSC, and ISC exploits for years to come.

    As for ISC Hall of Fame induction when they become eligible? Shoo-ins.

    ISC WORLD TOURNAMENT / INDIVIDUAL PITCHING / MOST WINS

    70 Michael White (1980-2006)
    60 Peter Meredith (1980-2001)
    56 Darren Zack (1992-2012)
    48 Mike Piechnik (1985-2008)
    48 Gerald Muizelaar (1999-2014)
    42 Todd Martin (1993-2010)
    42 Paul Algar (1985-2012)
    40 Korrey Garreau (1995-2014)
    39 Andrew Kirkpatrick (2004-present)
    39 Adam Folkard (2004-present)
    …42 remaining pitchers with at least 20 wins…

    Ezekiel and Cleary, two world-class performers at the 2016 ISC World Tournament

    Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
    New York Gremlins Kyle Ezekiel rips into a pitch from Sean Cleary of the Toronto Gators and drives it into left-field for a hit. Ezekiel was 1-for-2 off Cleary , but the right-hander came out on top by leading the Gators to a 3-1 victory in the 2016 ISC World Tournament, Aug. 20 at Green Valley Sports Complex in Moline, IL. The Gators went on to dethrone two-time titlest Hill United Chiefs in the final, 6-3, and Cleary was selected the Most Outstanding Pitcher with a 5-0 record, 35 2/3 innings, 19 hits allowed, with 70 strikeouts and a 0.98 ERA. Photo By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com.

    New York Gremlins Kyle Ezekiel rips into a pitch from Sean Cleary of the Toronto Gators and drives it into left-field for a hit. Ezekiel was 1-for-2 off Cleary , but the right-hander came out on top by leading the Gators to a 3-1 victory in the 2016 ISC World Tournament, Aug. 20 at Green Valley Sports Complex in Moline, IL. The Gators went on to dethrone two-time titlest Hill United Chiefs in the final, 6-3, and Cleary was selected the Most Outstanding Pitcher with a 5-0 record, 35 2/3 innings, 19 hits allowed, with 70 strikeouts and a 0.98 ERA. Photo By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com.

    MOLINE, IL – One can hit, the other can pitch. In the world of top-caliber men’s fastpitch softball, Kyle Ezekiel of the New York Gremlins and Toronto Gators’ right-hander Sean Cleary are two of the best.

    In 2015, Cleary was a Second-Team, All-World pick for helping the Toronto Gators finished second to Hill United Chiefs in the ISC World Tournament.

    But this year, he uped his production. And what a difference it made for the Gators.

    SEAN CLEARY of the Toronto Gators, was selected a first-team, All-World pitcher for leading the Gators to the 2016 70th ISC World Tournament championship. Cleary's production (5-0 record) earned him top honors as the LEROY ZIMMERMAN MOST OUTSTANDING PITCHER, thus ending the three-year reign of Hill United Chiefs ADAM FOLKARD (2015, 2014, 2013). Cleary outdueled Folkard in the championship in helping the Gators defeat the Chiefs, 6-3, Aug. 20, at Green Valley Sports Complex in Moline, IL. Photo By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

    SEAN CLEARY of the Toronto Gators, was selected a first-team, All-World pitcher for leading the Gators to the 2016 70th ISC World Tournament championship. Cleary’s production (5-0 record) earned him top honors as the LEROY ZIMMERMAN MOST OUTSTANDING PITCHER, thus ending the three-year reign of Hill United Chiefs ADAM FOLKARD (2015, 2014, 2013). Cleary outdueled Folkard in the championship in helping the Gators defeat the Chiefs, 6-3, Aug. 20, at Green Valley Sports Complex in Moline, IL. Photo By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

    In a return match-up, Cleary reversed the order and beat his counterpart, Adam Folkard, in leading the Gators to a 6-3 victory in the 2016 70th ISC World Tournament championship game.

    Will the Gators return and repeat in 2017? Or will the Chiefs avenge their loss and regain top billing? Time will tell.

    Boland’s blast gives Toronto Gators ISC World Tournament championship

    Saturday, August 20th, 2016
    Ryan Boland, No. 10, and the rest of the Toronto Gators are ecstatic and waiting at home plate to greet Ryan's brother,  Shane Boland, who hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 6-3 victory over the United Hill Chiefs, Saturday night, in the 2016 ISC World Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Ryan Boland, No. 10, and the rest of the Toronto Gators are ecstatic and waiting at home plate to greet Ryan’s brother, Shane Boland, who hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 6-3 victory over the United Hill Chiefs, Saturday night, in the 2016 ISC World Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

    MOLINE, IL – In last year’s ISC World Tournament, the Toronto Gators came so close to winning the championship, so close to upending the Hill United Chiefs, three-time defending titlests.

    But the Gators of Ontario, Canada fell short, suffering a gut-wrenching 6-4 loss after holding the lead going into the sixth inning.

    However, Gators manager, Terry Baytor, knew some good could come from that loss in the way of learning a valuable lesson. So he put his pen to work.

    “I wrote a team letter,” Baytor said. “I told them we had to lose before we could learn how to win. And this year we came ready to win.”

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    Starters can’t finish as Toronto Gators win slugfest over Hill United Chiefs

    Friday, August 19th, 2016
    Joel Southam belted a two-run home run for Hill United Chiefs, but it wasn't enough as the Toronto Gators defeated the Chiefs, 7-6, in nine innings in the winner's bracket final to advance to the ISC World Tournament championship game, Saturday. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Joel Southam belted a two-run home run for Hill United Chiefs, but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto Gators defeated the Chiefs, 7-6, in nine innings in the winner’s bracket final to advance to the ISC World Tournament championship game, Saturday. Photo By BOB OTTO

    MOLINE, IL – Adam Folkard and Sean Cleary are two of the top pitchers in the world of fastpitch softball. Both have overpowering speed and sharp breaking spin that makes their pitches rise or drop with astounding movement.

    Most of the time the two right-handers win the battle against the best fastball hitters in the world. Friday night wasn’t one of those time.

    Both pitchers were ousted from the game – Folkard in the sixth pitching for Hill United Chiefs, and the Toronto Gators pulled Cleary after four innings.

    Hill United Chiefs Adam Folkard fires a pitch during the Chiefs, 7-6, loss to the Toronto Gators in the winner's bracket final, Friday night, at Green Valley Sports Complex. The loss drops the three-time ISC World Tournament champion into the loser's bracket, while the Gators advance to the championship game. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Hill United Chiefs Adam Folkard fires a pitch during the Chiefs, 7-6, loss to the Toronto Gators in the winner’s bracket final, Friday night, at Green Valley Sports Complex. The loss drops the three-time ISC World Tournament champion into the loser’s bracket, while the Gators advance to the championship game. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Those moves tell how this game went. It was a hitter’s night.

    And this time around it went the Gators way as the two titans battled through nine innings before Toronto pulled out a 7-6 win when one of the greatest hitters in the world – New Zealand star Wayne Laulu – ended the game with a walkoff home run off Pablo Migliavacca.

    Migliavaca took over for Folkard in the seventh after he had given up six runs (five earned) on nine hits.

    Hill United Chiefs catcher Jason Sanford blocks the plate and stops Toronto Gator's Brandon Horn from scoring during the Gators nine inning, 7-6 victory in the winner's bracket final of the 2016 ISC World Tournament, Friday. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Hill United Chiefs catcher Jason Sanford blocks the plate and stops Toronto Gator’s Brandon Horn from scoring during the Gators nine inning, 7-6 victory in the winner’s bracket final of the 2016 ISC World Tournament, Friday. Photo By BOB OTTO

    The two powerhouses, feasted on 21 hits, 10 by the Chiefs and 11 from the Gators, and they hit five home runs, three by the Chiefs and a pair by the Gators. (See ISC Pointstreak for stats.)

    In the back and forth scoring affair, the Chiefs plated a pair of runs in the first and second innings, only to see the Gators chip away with single runs in the first four innings to tie the game.

    Bradley Ezekiel hit a home run in the fifth to reinstate the Chief’s lead at 5-4 off Justin Schofield who relieved Cleary to start the inning. But back fought the Gators with a pair of runs in the sixth to surge ahead, 6-5.

    But in the seventh, Ezekiel’s second home run evened the count, sending the game into extra innings, where Laulu’s blast ended it.

    The win was huge, moving Toronto into Saturday’s championship game at 6 p.m. as the only unbeaten team (5-0) left in the tournament, while Hill United must battle back through the loser’s bracket for another crack at the championship.

    The Chiefs return to the ball diamond at 1 p.m. to take on the winner between the New York Gremlins and BC A’s to be played at 11.

    ** For standings, scores and more, visit: ISC Pointstreak Scoreboard

    Hill United Chiefs beat Circle Taps Dukes to stay perfect

    Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
    Adam Folkard pitched Six Nations Hill United Chiefs to the 2015 ISC World Tournament championship, and was selected the Most Outstanding Pitcher. Folkard continues his dominace in the 2016 ISC World Tournament with a 3-0 record in the early going.

    Adam Folkard pitched Six Nations Hill United Chiefs to the 2015 ISC World Tournament championship, Aug. 15, and was selected the Leroy Zimmerman Most Outstanding Pitcher. And he continues his dominace in the 2016 ISC World Tournament with a 3-0 record in the early going.

    MOLINE, IL – The Hill United Chiefs hammered four home runs, Adam Folkard spun a one-hitter, and the Chiefs run-ruled the Circle Tap Dukes, of Denmark, WI, 10-0, to improve to 3-0 in the ISC World Tournament, Wednesday.

    Hill United will now take on the undefeated Scarborough Force (3-0) Thursday night at 8 p.m. The Force defeated the A-1 Bombers, 4-3, Wednesday night to advance. The other two undefeated teams, the Toronto Gators (3-0) and New York Gremlins (3-0), open the night’s clash of titans at 6 p.m.

    Leadoff batter Brad Ezekiel crushed a solo shot to start the game, and Nick Shailes, Jason Hill and Jason Sanford followed suit to lead the Chiefs eight hit attack.

    Hill United has hit an incredible 14 home runs in the tournament, and have yet to give up a run, outscoring their opponents 36-0.

    Mark Johnson leads the team with 11 RBI and a .667 batting average.

    Folkard, the five-time Most Outstanding Pitcher of the World Tournament, continued his dominance in the circle with 11 strikeouts and just one walk to improve to 3-0.

    Between 2013 and present, Folkard has now won 21 consecutive games in World Tournament play, placing him second all-time to Gerald Muizelaar with 23.

    Folkard’s five Most Outstanding Pitcher awards (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015) ties him first all-time with LeRoy Zimmerman (1950, 1952, 1955, 1959, 1960).

    For more results, visit: ISC Pointstreak Scoreboard