With several of the world's best teams in town this weekend, the field is more impressive than ever for the annual Pioneer Days fastpitch softball tournament. Friday night at the Cottonwood Complex, Miller Toyota showed that the Salt Lake teams may still be heard from this weekend.
Brendan Keehan posted 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory over Rempel Bros., the Canadian national champions from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.To protect local interests, Miller Toyota had to come through on opening night. The other teams faced tougher opponents, with Page Brake falling 2-0 to the New Zealand national team and Carpetowne playing defending national champ Pay N' Pak of Seattle in a late game.
The round-robin tournament continues through Sunday night, with the 12 international entrants making this tournament considered the strongest of any staged in this country this year.
Joe Nichols' two-run single in the second inning gave Keehan all the offensive help he needed in a game that showcased the Miller Toyota trademarks - good pitching, solid defense and the ability to manufacture runs.
Keehan, the New Zelander who moved from Page Brake to Miller this season, was a little shaky in the early going. But over-aggressive baserunning by the Canadians helped him keep the shutout alive. Rempel Bros. touched Keehan for three straight infield singles in the second, but Miller shortstop Gordon Eakin gunned down Don Capon, trying to score from second on an infield hit behind second base.
In the home half of the second, Miller quietly loaded the bases on Brad Burrup's infield single, Eakin's bunt single and a hit batsman. Nichols, Miller's veteran third baseman, slapped his two-run single through the right side and the Toyotans were on their way, even though Rempel pitcher Jeff Boyce worked out of the jam.
After Rempel's Len Chanasyk was caught trying to stretch a single into a double to open the third inning, Keehan found his groove. He allowed only one hit the rest of the way, and nine of the remaining 14 outs came on strikeouts.
Miller added single runs in the fourth and sixth innings on RBI singles by John Jones and David Bell.
In another opening game, the Decatur (Ill.) Pride blasted the Las Vegas Aces 8-0 with Brian Rothrock hitting a two-run homer and Dave Jackson adding a three-run shot. While Decatur pitcher Brent Stevenson allowed only one hit, the Pride came alive after the third inning, collecting all 10 of their hits over the next three innings in a game halted by the eight-run rule. In other games, the Clearwater (Fla.) Bombers downed the Amigos of Sonora, Mexico 7-0 and defending Pioneer Days champ Guanella Bros. (Santa Rosa, Calif.) defeated the Boise Metros 7-4.
The 12 teams will play three games each today, starting at 9 a.m. The top two finishers in each six-team pool will advance to Sunday afternoon's semifinals.