Canada powers past Kiwis for world softball title

July 6, 2015

Saskatoon, SK



(footnote: Proud to sit beside Scott Larsen all week as he wrote his great daily articles for his paper, the Saskatoon TheStarPhoenix - AD)


Team Canada celebrates after winning the 2015 World Softball Championship 10-5 against New Zealand at Bob Van Impe Field on Sunday July 5th, 2015.

Photograph by: Pete Yee , The StarPhoenix


When Devon McCullough threw the last strike to end the game, he threw his mitt in the air and was swarmed by his teammates.

McCullough, the hometown kid from Saskatoon, had just helped Team Canada storm back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat New Zealand 10-5 and win the 2015 WBSC Men’s World Softball title.

Canada’s Steve Mullaley was a one-man wrecking crew, cracking three home runs, including a grand slam to lead Canada’s offence.

“It was pretty much the perfect way to end the tournament,” said McCullough, who came on in relief of ace Sean Cleary in the third inning. “It was an unreal ending and a perfect ending to my week.”

Canada spotted the defending champion Black Sox five runs early in the game.

New Zealand scored a pair of runs in the top of the first and after a scoreless second New Zealand’s Ben Enoka hammered a 2-2 pitch over the left centre wall to give the Kiwis a 3-0 lead. Two batters later Thomas Enoka hit an RBI double to chase Cleary from the game.

McCullough came on in relief and after loading the bases walked in a run to make it 5-0. But he was then able to strike out Jovaan Hanley to end the inning.

Cue the monster comeback.

Brandon Horn led off the bottom of the third with a double and Mathieu Roy cashed him in with a single to make it 5-1. Then Brad Ezekiel smashed a Heinie Shannon change-up over the centre field fence for a two-run shot to close the gap to 5-3. One out later Mullaley hit one out of the park to make it 5-4.

Shannon was replaced on the mound by Nik Hayes and in the fourth the Kiwi pitcher walked the first three batters to load the bases and was pulled in favour of Shannon re-entering the game.

One out later Mullaley, who had seven RBIs in the game, parked a grand slam over the centre field fence to give Canada an 8-5 lead after four innings. Mullaley hit his third homer of the game, this time a two-run shot in the sixth to finish the scoring.

“I knew that with Shannon coming back into the game he was probably going to come at me with the first pitch,” Mullaley said of his grand slam at bat. “I tried to stay back on the ball and he hung a change-up and I was able to put a good swing on it.”

Canadian head coach John Stuart had a quick chat with the team in the middle of the third to tell them even being down 5-0 the game was not out of reach.

“I called the guys together in the third inning and said, ‘One base at a time. One at-bat at a time. Trust yourselves and we’ll make it through,’” Stuart said.

“I credit (assistant coach) Les Howey from Saskatoon who has been preaching cut down on the strikeouts and put the ball in play and good things will happen. I think we proved we were the best hitting team here.”

Stuart wasn’t surprised by Mullaley’s stellar performance.

“When Steven Mullaley is on fire, like he was, there is no better hitter in the world,” Stuart said. “He gets locked in he is the best hitter in the world.”

New Zealand head coach Mark Sorenson said their ace was showing a little fatigue in the last game.

“We’d ridden the arm of Heinie Shannon all week long and we knew he was getting a bit low in the tank,” Sorenson said. “I thought with a five-run buffer it gave us a bit of room to play with, but it wasn’t to be the case. It’s a pretty good Canadian hitting side and they got their tail up. A couple hits by Mulalley really killed us.”

McCullough struck out eight, including the last two batters in the seventh, and gave up just one hit in four and two-thirds innings of work.

The Saskatoon native said he fed off the crowd of 6,348 that came out to watch the gold medal game.

“Every inning I felt I was getting stronger and stronger,” McCullough said. “The crowd was a big part of it and I thrived off it.”

He said getting ahead in the count was a big key to his success.

“A lot of those big hitters like taking pitches early, so you have to get ahead,” he said. “As soon as you fall behind you run into trouble. I was able to get ahead on them and then make them chase my other stuff.”

Canada scored their 10 runs by pounding out 11 hits, including four home runs.

New Zealand had five runs on five hits.


Canada rocked Venezuela 10-0 in four innings in the semifinal Sunday morning to make it to the final.

Venezuela’s ace Ramon Jones, who allowed just three hits in three playoff games and had a perfect 0.00 ERA, did not play against Canada.

Manager Delio Lopez said Jones had played three games in 24 hours and they needed to keep him healthy.

“He is a human, not a robot,” he said through an interpreter.

He said if they had won the game Jones would have pitched in the final.





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