MIYAZAKI, Japan – Stephanie Savoie is the best in the world.
The catcher from La Pocatiere, QC was named the backstop of the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup all-star squad on Sunday at the Japanese tournament’s closing ceremonies, the second consecutive event in which Savoie earned the honours.
“She’s good behind the plate defensively, she’s got a good arm, she stops runners and the entire running game of other teams easily, and then she hits with power,” Team Canada manager Andre Lachance said. “She was the key to our win against Chinese Taipei. She’s the heart of our lineup and I can’t say enough about her. She’s outstanding and she deserves everything that is happening for her.”
Savoie posted a .450 average over the six games of the tournament, going 9-for-20 with a double, three walks, six runs scored and seven runs driven in, and added two stolen bases. But according to Lachance, the backstop’s best tool isn’t even her bat. The 24-year-old has a stellar arm, and threw out six attempted base stealers at the event, four more than any other catcher, on 17 attempts.
“I’d say it’s her arm,” her skipper said. “She’s stopping the running game all the time. The other teams aren’t running against her and that’s a huge advantage for us. Plus offensively, she’s great. She’s good defensively but offensively they even shift against her and she finds holes on the field to get on base. That’s a huge plus and she’s done well with that this year.”
Women’s national team starter Vanessa Riopel has played with Savoie for years in their home province and has seen not only what her catcher has to offer, but also how far she has come to get to where she currently is.
“She’s good at everything,” the native of Repentigny, QC said of Savoie. “She’s very intelligent, she really knows baseball and she’s focused. She always wants to be better so she always asks for the coaches’ feedback and she wants to do more. When she’s at bat, she can hit everything everywhere.
“She wasn’t the first catcher the year she was [with Team Canada]. She was an outfielder and he just wanted her to hit and she didn’t like that. So she worked out a lot to lose weight and now she’s an athlete, all muscle, really in shape, and in her mentality too.
“She takes care of pitchers and when they’re throwing bad pitches she always knows what to do. If you don’t want her to come [for a mound visit] she knows that and she’ll leave it. She’s always positive and she’s the best.”
While Savoie does everything in impressive fashion, framing and blocking pitches especially well, throwing, hitting for average and for power, one of the attributes that Riopel finds most remarkable is her selflessness on the field.
“For a pitcher, it’s good to have a good catcher,” Riopel said. “You can’t pitch if she’s dropping the ball or if she just blocks everything when it’s a low strike. There are catchers who just think about themselves and they look good when they’re blocking balls in the dirt, but maybe they’re strikes.
“She’s not selfish. She helps everyone, knows all the plays, she’s really smart, and she takes care of everything.”
Officially holding onto her title as the world’s best female catcher in baseball, Savoie impressed many of the new faces at the tournament who were first introduced to her play in Miyazaki. At the end of the event on Sunday, Team USA coach Dennis Keeley made sure to stop her to acknowledge her standout performance, and Australian coach Luke Hughes shared his sentiment.
“Where did she come from?” Hughes said. “The way the ball jumps off of her bat, it’s just different from other players. She’s impressive.”
Savoie was the lone selection to the tournament all-star team from north of the border, after the Canadian women finished in fourth place at the World Cup. Japan won its fourth consecutive gold medal with USA and Australia finishing with silver and bronze, respectively.
Stay up to date with Canada’s national teams by following @baseballcanada on Twitter.
IBAF Women’s World Cup website