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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

Ratliff Aiming For USA Softball Men’s National Team

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

USASoftball

SANDY, UTAH – Matt Ratliff has enjoyed his share of success in fastpitch. He’s won an ASA national championship and in 2015 he was selected second-team, All-World at the ISC World Tournament.

He’s played on some of the world’s best fastpitch teams, including the California A’s, and currently the Peligro Gremlins of New York City.

But there’s one team – the ultimate team – he yearns to play for: The USA Softball Men’s National Team.

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Venezuela’s Ramon Jones sends United States home from Pan American Games

Friday, July 17th, 2015
Venezuela's Ramon Jones turned in a dominating pitching performance in a 1-0 victory over the United States in Friday's Pan American Games playoffs.

Venezuela’s Ramon Jones turned in a dominating pitching performance in a 1-0 victory over the United States in Friday’s Pan American Games playoffs.

TORONTO – Ramon Jones throws the ball hard, he throws the ball with lots of spin, he has the best drop ball in men’s fastpitch. He’s unquestionably one of the top pitchers in the world.

Team USA can attest to that.

Click to continue reading “Venezuela’s Ramon Jones sends United States home from Pan American Games”

EXPLOSIVE CANADA KNOCKS OUT VENEZUELA IN THE QUEST FOR GOLD

Sunday, July 5th, 2015
Sean Cleary allowed one hit in pitching Canada to a 10-0 win over Venezuela to advance Team Canada into the Gold Medal game of the 14th ISF Men's World Softball Championship, Sunday, July 5.

Sean Cleary allowed one hit in pitching Canada to a 10-0 win over Venezuela to advance Team Canada into the Gold Medal game of the 14th ISF Men’s World Softball Championship, Sunday, July 5.

SASKATOON, SK, Canada – In somewhat of a surprise, Venezuela started its No. 2 pitcher, Erick Urbaneja, rather than handing the ball to Ramon Jones against Canada in the Bronze Medal game, Sunday morning.

All Jones had done was win six games in the ISF Men’s World Softball Championship including back-to-back, one-hit shutouts in the playoffs to get his team to this desirable juncture in the championship round.

Was the pitching decision made to counter the left-handed Urbaneja against the seven lefties in Canada’s lineup? Was it made because his slower speed and great change-up had given Canada problems in the past?

    CANADA SCORES EARLY AND OFTEN

Maybe so. But it didn’t work. And the way Canada was swinging the bats, it probably didn’t matter who Venezuela threw at them.

Team Canada exploded from the starting gate by torching Urbaneja for four runs on five hits including two home runs by Brad Ezekiel and Steve Mullaley to send the left-hander to the bench. Another lefty, Eder Pineda, came on in relief, but he wasn’t effective either as Canada continued the onslaught.

And before the first inning had ended, Canada had sent 10 batters to the plate, scored six runs on seven hits, and the game was essentially over as Canada went on to win 10-0 in a mercy-rule, four innings.

The win moves Canada into the Gold Medal game, Sunday afternoon against the defending 2013 champion New Zealand Black Sox.

    EZEKIEL DRIVES IN FIVE

Canada kept pounding the ball, adding four more runs in the third, highlighted by Ezekiel’s bases-loaded triple. Canada’s center fielder and No. 2 hitter was perfect in going 2-for-2 with five RBI, including his first-inning homer.

Brad Ezekiel hit a home run and accounted for five of Canada's 10 runs against Venezuela.

Brad Ezekiel hit a home run and accounted for five of Canada’s 10 runs against Venezuela.

    CLEARY NEARLY PERFECT

Sean Cleary got the start for Canada and he was on top of his game, mixing his rise ball effectively with his knee-buckling change-up against the free and hard-swinging Venezuelans.

The right-hander struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and carried a perfect game into the fourth inning. But pinch hitter, Kerlis Rivero, broke up Cleary’s gem with a clean single.

Venezuela continued to threaten by loading the bases on an error and walk, but Cleary struck out Edwin Linares to end the game and send Canada into the Gold Medal game with New Zealand, waiting in the wings.

    GREAT SHOWING BY A WORLD-CLASS TEAM

Venezuela exits the world softball championship with the Bronze Medal, finishing 3-1 in the championship round and third in Pool B at 5-2. Venezuela has shown outstanding ability at the world level, taking the Silver Medal in the 2013 ISF World Championship.

    CLEARY STAYS PERFECT

The win boasts Cleary’s record to 5-0 (2-0 in the playoffs). Against Venezuela, he allowed the one hit and struck out nine. All totaled, Cleary has pitched 30 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits, crafting a 2.05 ERA, with 12 walks and 45 strikeouts.

Now the question? Will Cleary get the ball and go as far as he can against New Zealand? Or will Canada Head Coach John Stuart opt for left-hander Paul Koert, or the young right-handed Devon McCullough?

On Saturday the two teams met and Cleary lasted just 2 2/3 innings before being lifted after allowing two earned runs on three hits. New Zealand went on to rough up relievers Paul Koert and Devon McCullough as well in a 9-5 victory, earned largely by four home runs.

Gold Medal game time is 1:30 p.m. PDT. To watch live, visit: Sports Canada TV

IN BATTLE OF TOP PITCHERS, JONES TOPS FOLKARD

Sunday, July 5th, 2015
Venezuela's Ramon Jones turned in a dominating pitching performance in a 4-0 victory over Australia in the medal round playoffs of the 2015 ISF Men's World Softball Championship, Saturday.

Venezuela’s Ramon Jones turned in a dominating pitching performance in a 4-0 victory over Australia in the medal round playoffs of the 2015 ISF Men’s World Softball Championship, Saturday.

SASKATOON, SK, Canada – Ramon Jones versus Adam Folkard.

Venezuela’s talented workhorse versus Australia’s ace, the fastest throwing pitcher on the planet.

Jones and Folkard have proven in the 14th ISF World Softball Championship that they are the two best pitchers in the world of men’s fastpitch softball.

They were destined to meet in the 16-team tournament. And Saturday night they did.

One team would win and stay alive in pursuit of a gold, silver or bronze medal, while the other would head for home, with a fourth-place finish.

    JONES AT HIS BEST

This time around, Jones and Venezuela came away the winner, besting Folkard and Australia for a 4-0 victory that moves Venezuela into Sunday’s coveted medal day in which they can finish with no less than a bronze.

Jones was simply brilliant in leading Venezuela to its third win in the playoffs. The right-hander with the best drop ball in the game, held Australia to just one hit over seven innings with a walk and 11 strikeouts. His victory comes on the heels of beating the Dominican Republic 3-0 on a one-hitter with nine strikeouts earlier on Saturday.

    HOMERS FOLKARD’S UNDOING

Folkard, who has pitched nearly every inning for his country, wasn’t quite as sharp as he needed to be. He only allowed five hits, but two of them were game-busters.

Edwin Linares blasted a solo home run in the second inning, which actually was the game-winner. Then Luiger Pinto sunk Australia’s dreams of a gold medal when he launched a three-run homer in the third.

Iran Perez and Rogello Sequera both singled to set up Pinto’s blast.

Folkard allowed just one hit and a walk the rest of the way, but the damage was done as Jones closed out the Steelers in the seventh with his 10th and 11th strikeouts to move Venezuela on to Sunday’s Bronze Medal game with Canada.

    BACK-TO-BACK OUSTINGS

It is the second consecutive ISF world championship that Venezuela has eliminated Australia. In 2013, the two teams met in the Bronze Medal game with Venezuela coming away with a 2-0 win. Venezuela went on to take the Silver Medal, losing 4-1 to Gold Medalist New Zealand.

Adam Folkard pitched superbly and nearly every inning for Australia.

Adam Folkard pitched superbly and nearly every inning for Australia.

    AUSSIE GREAT GIVES HIS ALL

Throughout the 2015 ISF world championship, Australia has leaned heavily on Folkard as left-hander Andrew Kirkpatrick was injured and unable to help in the circle.

Australia finishes with a 5-2 record in Pool B, and 1-2 in the playoffs, in which the Steelers lost 8-3 to Canada, and beat Japan 3-0.

Folkard certainly gave his all as he appeared in eight games, hurling 50 innings in which he allowed just 28 hits, struck out 82 batters, issued 12 walks, had an ERA of 1.68 and leaves the world championship with a personal 5-2 record.

    JONES SOLDIERS ON

However, Jones has been better, pitching in 10 games over 41 2/3 innings for a 1.18 ERA. He has given up 19 hits and 10 walks, while striking out 62 batters. He continues on in the playoffs, and will try and improve his 6-1 record against Canada Sunday morning.

Erick Urbaneja (2-0) has pitched just 11 2/3 innings. With gold gleaming so close and so temptingly, Venezuela has to hand the ball to Jones and ride their workhorse as far as he can go.

    SUNDAY’S MEDAL DAY SCHEDULE
  • Venezuela vs. Canada, Bronze Medal game, 10:30 PDT
  • Winner vs. New Zealand, Gold Medal game, 1:30
  • To watch live, visit Sports Canada TV .

    Disastrous miscues lead to USA loss to Venezuela in ISF Men’s World Softball Championship

    Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

    SASKATOON, SK, Canada – Late Tuesday night the United States men’s national softball team was probably frustrated and angry and thinking that they had just lost a game they should have won.

    And they had good reason for such feelings.

    Team USA saw victory slip away as Venezuela took advantage of walks, passed balls and wild pitches to escape with a 3-2 win in Pool B of the ISF Men’s World Softball Championship at Bob Van Impe Stadium.

    Click to continue reading “Disastrous miscues lead to USA loss to Venezuela in ISF Men’s World Softball Championship”

    Jones is golden for Venezuela in the IX Pan American men’s fastpitch championship

    Saturday, November 1st, 2014

    PARANA, ARGENTINA – Needing just one victory to claim the gold medal in the IX Pan American games, Venezuela handed the ball to pitcher Ramon Jones and he didn’t disappoint his countrymen.

    The big right-hander, known for his durability and his blistering, sharp-breaking drop ball, held Argentina to just three hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts in pitching Venezuela to a 2-0 victory late Saturday night at Nafaldo Cargnel Stadium in Parana.

    Click to continue reading “Jones is golden for Venezuela in the IX Pan American men’s fastpitch championship”

    Erick Chaparro, reaching for the top in men’s fastpitch

    Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

    ChaparroErick Erick Chaparro of Venezuela is pitching for the Rice Lake Orangemen and has started the season strong. Courtesy Photo

    RICE LAKE, Wisc. – Since the early 1980s, foreign fastpitch softball pitchers have been trekking to the U.S. hoping to improve their skills, hoping to raise their game to a higher level by competing against some of the best club teams in the world.

    21-year-old Erick Chaparro of Maracaibo, Venezuela is one of them. He’s been coming stateside since he was 18.

    This year he’s in Wisconsin pitching for the Rice Lake Orangemen. And with his past two tournament performances as a barometer, he’s off to a great start.

      A CHAMPIONSHIP AND A NO-NO

    At the 10th Annual Hollywood Days Tournament, June 21-22, at the Hollywood Sports Complex in Watertown, Minn., Chaparro led the Rice Lake Orangemen to the championship, and finished with a personal 3-1 record.

    His 5-2 victory over the Fargo, North Dakota Bombers on a three-hitter with four walks and five strikeouts in the championship was but one fine performance. He also hurled a no-hitter against Tin Cup of St. Paul in a 2-1 win.

    The right-hander also pitched the Orangemen to the Rice Lake 36th Annual Aquafest Invitational title the week before and was selected the Most Valuable Player for both his pitching and his hitting.

    Rice Lake manager Travis Thompson says Chaparro is having a superb year, and has come to the rescue after veteran Bryan Lathrop underwent hip surgery that has sidelined him until next season. He sees only an upside to the young pitcher’s future.

    “He’s made big progress especially with the change-up,” said Thompson, who also catches Chaparro. “He shows mental toughness, throws hard, and he has that drive that most don’t have nowadays.”

    So what’s propelled this young hurler off to such a good start?

    Click to continue reading “Erick Chaparro, reaching for the top in men’s fastpitch”

    Venezuela holds off Canada in ISF World Softball Championship playoffs

    Friday, March 8th, 2013

    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – The Canadian Men’s National Fastball Team came into the 13th International Softball Federation World Championship with one of the strongest hitting lineups.

    In claiming the top spot in Pool B, with a 6-1 mark, Canada outscored its opponents 43-12.

    So going into the first playoff game against Venezuela, it stood to reason that the Canadians would score a few runs.

    HURLERS SHUT DOWN CANADA
    But Erick Urbaneja and Ramon Jones had other ideas.

    Click to continue reading “Venezuela holds off Canada in ISF World Softball Championship playoffs”