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NJCAA Softball National Team competing in Canadian Open
 July 14, 2014

SURREY, British Columbia – Softball players from across the United States have gone north of the border to represent the NJCAA in the 20th annual Canadian Open Fastpitch International Competition. The NJCAA national team is competing against four national teams – including Team USA – and three elite squads from July 13-21 at three softball facilities in Surrey.

The Canadian Open – formerly known as the Canada Cup – has been played annually since 1993. Live scores, stats and video streaming are available at www.canadianopenfastpitch.com.

The NJCAA national team started off on the right foot Sunday with a 14-2 victory over the White Rock Renegades. They will take on the Bloomington Lady Hearts Monday and Tuesday afternoon before playing their first international squad – Team Japan – Tuesday evening. The highly anticipated matchup with Team USA will take place Thursday. Click here for a complete tournament schedule.

Representing the NJCAA in the tournament is 16 student-athletes from 10 member colleges. The roster is made up of graduating sophomores that maintained at least a 2.5 grade-point average.

The NJCAA national team’s talent and depth on the mound should present opponents with a difficult challenge when they step into the batter’s box.

From Indian River State (Fla.), Huntyre Elling (left) brings to the table a 1.42 ERA in the highly competitive Region 8. The right-hander was 12-1 during the 2014 season with 80 strikeouts in 93 innings pitched.

Kirkwood (Iowa) provides the team with their own solid one-two punch of Shyanne Saladino and Sam Belz. The right-handers combined for 355 strikeouts this season and both boast sub-1.50 ERAs. Saladino ranked fifth in Division II with 200 strikeouts in 2014 and was named a second team All-American.

Right-hander Kaisey Carson closes out the staff as the team’s utility player after compiling a 3.06 ERA on the mound and a .430 batting average at the plate for Northwest Florida State this year.

With an exceptional pitching staff in place, the NJCAA national team is also talented behind the plate with three skilled catchers.

Northwest Florida State’s Hannah Day (left) leads the trio after batting .431 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs in 2014. Kate James of Butler (Kan.) – a first team All-American in 2013 – also made the cut with a .394 batting average, 14 home runs and 53 RBIs in her sophomore campaign.

They are joined by Danielle Craft of Mississippi Gulf Coast who hit for a .407 average and drove in 34 runs on the year.

With an array of offensive and defensive talent, the infield of the NJCAA national team stacks up with the elite competition in Canada.

Second team All-American Kori Benson from Wallace State (Ala.) anchors the group after setting the storied program’s career-mark for most home runs with 38. The third baseman had a .445 batting average on the season while recording 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Boasting the team’s highest batting average (.534) in 2014, LSU Eunice first baseman Brooklynn Clark (left) is playing an integral role on the team after driving home 71 runs for the Bengals this year. Clark was named MVP of the NJCAA DII National Championship after going 11-for-22 at the plate with two doubles and five RBIs.

Benson is joined by fellow Lions teammate Madeline Lee who is looking to utilize her range in the middle infield. Two more Florida players – Gulf Coast State second baseman Katie White and Indian River State shortstop Alexandra Ortiz – round out the roster’s infield.

Perhaps the NJCAA national team’s greatest asset is the abundance of ability in the outfield.

Indian River State’s Shelby Duncan and Courtney Shields (left) of Southern Union State (Ala.) provide the roster with star power after both players earned first team All-America honors in 2014. Shield’s 88 RBIs were third most in Division I this year while her .514 batting average ranked fifth. Batting .462 for the season, Duncan accumulated 19 extra-base hits and brought in 42 runs.

LSU Eunice’s Codi Covington and North Idaho’s Kylene Hatton wrap up the outfield with above .400 batting averages. Covington batted .407 with 34 RBIs, while Hatton had a .402 average with 45 RBIs.

The team is led by three NJCAA coaches. Jayne Clem (left) from Wallace State has the honor of being the team’s head coach. In 15 seasons at the helm in Hanceville, Clem has accumulated 761 career wins with national championship runs in 2008 and 2013. She has directed the Lions to eight Region 22 championships and is an 11-time Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) Coach of the Year.

Joining Clem on the staff are Howie Smith of Dodge City (Kan.), Joe Yegge of Kirkwood, Lucas Grider of Frank Phillips (Texas) and Elaine Covin.

Photos courtesy of Indian River State Athletics, Northwest Florida State Athletics, Nick Phillips/LSU Eunice Athletics, SG Photo and Wallace State Athletics.

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