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By Loren Kopff
SANTA ANA-The Far East is meeting with the Far West as the California A’s travel softball team is hosting the Denso softball team from Japan for a quintet of friendlies to be played at a pair of junior colleges. The USA Cal A’s select team, as it’s being called, and Denso played this past Tuesday and Wednesday and will meet again today at Santa Ana College before moving to Fullerton College for Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
According to Brian Iseri, the manager of the Cal A’s 18-Under team, Denso contacted Kathy Miller three months ago about putting these games together. Miller, who has been doing this since 1993, handles the international side of the Cal A’s program and in the past, other international teams have contacted her, who then will contact Iseri so the Cal A’s program can host the international teams.
Normally, one or two games are scheduled between the Cal A’s and an international team. But Denso offered five games to the Cal A’s, who then opened up this opportunity to any travel ball or collegiate player who was interested. Not only are past and present members of the Cal A’s playing these five games, but so are college players and those from other travel softball teams.
“I think this is an incredible experience for these girls being that right now Japan is No. 1 in the world in softball,” Iseri said. “Here you’re dealing with Denso, who is almost in the top five in the pro leagues in Japan. So they’re right there with Toyota, Nissan and all the rest of them.”
Meanwhile, the Denso team, which hails from Anjo, a city in Aichi Prefecture is made up of 19 players ranging from ages 18-34, according to Mayumi Murakami, organizer for the Denso team and vice president of Women’s Major League Softball International. The Denso softball team is one of 12 that are part of the Japanese League, which has been around for roughly 70 years.
After losing to Denso 6-0 this past Tuesday, the Cal A’s were on the south end of a 10-1 decision this past Wednesday. Denso jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first inning on a two-run single from Makiko Tanaka. The lead went to 3-0 in the third as a sacrifice fly from Eri Matsuki brought in Chie Andoh, who had tripled just two pitches prior.
In the next inning, former Cerritos High and current University of Hawai’i pitcher and outfielder Jennifer Iseri, yielded a one-out double to Mao Kikkawa, a run-scoring single to Suzuka Yamane and a double to Aya Nogi as the lead increased to 5-0. Jennifer Iseri, who started the game in left field, worked two innings in the circle and gave up six hits and three runs.
Denso, which practiced for five hours earlier this past Wednesday before the game, batted around in the fifth inning and tacked on five more runs on six hits. In all, the team pounded out 17 hits, three of which were doubles and the one triple. Tanaka and Yamane each went three for three while five other players picked up a pair of hits.
“It’s amazing because you look at the way that softball has evolved,” Brian Iseri said. “We’ve taken away so much from Japan and we take this and…our approach with these girls is just to live this experience and also, game by game, take something away from a position player. Watching them play defense, how they run the bases; that’s incredible. And if our girls can learn to do that and take it to their college teams, that’s something they can bring back to their schools and their system.”
The USA Cal A’s select team, which had four hits from four different players this past Tuesday, was limited to five hits from five different players this past Wednesday. The biggest of those hits came from infielder Nautica Rivera, who came off the bench to launch a first-pitch home run over the centerfield wall.
“Nauti is a special kid,” Brian Iseri said. “She came back from an injury, worked her butt off the last two years and she’s finally coming back to where she was. She was one of my top players four years ago and she had an injury which required surgery. She was out for almost two years and she’s come back now and colleges are recognizing her. She has offers on the table for herself and now it’s just picking the right school for her. But for a time, she thought she would never play softball again.”
Other notable players to name a few who are on the USA Cal A’s select team who will play either today, Saturday, Sunday or in two or three of the games are: Kelsey Arnold (University of Oklahoma), Celeste Borza (Cerritos High/verbal commit to the University of Texas, San Antonio), Heather Cameron (University of Hawai’i), Caleigh Clifton (University of Oklahoma), Sydney Colenzo (California State University, Fullerton), Jazmin Guzman (California State University, Dominguez), Jennifer Morinishi (Cerritos High/verbal commit to Biola University), Sarah Parten (University of California, Riverside) and Nyah Rodman (Cal State Fullerton).
Admission to today’s game is $5 and admission to the two games at Fullerton College is $10.
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