Although the United States were the gold medal favorites heading into the inaugural Women’s Baseball tournament at the 2015 Pan Am Games, the possibility of an upset at the hands of host country Canada was continuously lingering. After Canada captured the gold medal in men’s baseball, it only added to the pressure of a possible double gold for Canada.
While players such as second generation player Sarah Hudek, who won the first women’s baseball game in the history of the Pan Am Games, and Malaika Underwood, whose .600 batting average topped all players, emerged as legends in the aftermath of the Pan Am Games, one could make a strong argument that it was a coming-out party for Stacy Piagno.
On July 23, the fans in attendance at President’s Choice Pan Am Ballpark in Ajax, Ontario (east of Toronto) saw history as Piagno tossed the first no-hitter in women’s baseball at the Pan Am Games. A 9-0 win against Puerto Rico saw Piagno walk only one batter while striking out six in a performance for the ages.
An impressive all-around supporting performance by the US roster saw the squad collaborate in a seven-hit performance. Underwood led the US with two hits, while Tamara Holmes contributed a game-best two RBI’s.
Perhaps the most impressive stat was the 19 consecutive Puerto Rican batters that Piagno retired in order to win the game, striking out Yinoska Claudio in the final at-bat. In addition, the no-hitter clinched a spot in the gold medal game for the US.
Piagno would come up big once again in the gold medal game against host country Canada. Considering that Canada upset the US in the women’s gold medal game in softball, Piagno ensured that no such event repeated itself.
Although Hudek earned the start, contributing a game-high three RBI’s to help her own cause, Piagno’s presence provided a calming force. Despite a four-run first inning, the US lead was in jeopardy as Canada scored three runs in the top of the fourth.
Runs scored by Rebecca Hartley, Nicole Luchanski and Bradi Wall, three of the top producers throughout the Pan Am Games for Canada, were enough to warrant a pitching change. With only one out in the inning, the insertion of Piagno in the game proved to be the turning point of the game.
Allowing only two hits for the remainder of the game, any potential rally by Canada was quickly nullified. In the fifth, Hudek would contribute one of her three RBI’s, while catcher Anna Kimbrell (who also caught Piagno’s no-hitter) provided a double with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, demoralizing the Canadian side.
In shutting down the host Canadians, Piagno also contributed four strikeouts, topping all pitchers in the 11-3 win for the United States. Of all the pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched at the Pan Am Games, only Canada’s Autumn Mills (0.54) had an ERA that topped Piagno’s 1.80. As a side note, Piagno led all pitchers with 10 strikeouts. Establishing herself as a big-game pitcher, she may prove to be the factor in helping the United States capture a third IBAF Women’s World Cup title in 2016.