‘Knuckle Princess’ makes US pro debut

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‘Knuckle Princess’ makes US pro debut

CHICO, California - Japan’s Eri Yoshida has become the first woman to pitch professionally in the United States in a decade, showing Saturday that she and her sidearm knuckleballs can compete with the men.

The “Knuckle Princess” was unfazed when a former major leaguer opened the game by bunting for a hit. She had a few knucklers that danced almost as much as those of her idol, Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox. She pitched a scoreless first inning in her debut for the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, before allowing a two-run homer to Juan Velasquez in the second inning.

She added an RBI single in her first at-bat against David Rivas of the Tijuana Cimarrones, prompting a standing ovation from the near sellout crowd on “Girl Power Night.” Even her teammates got caught up in the excitement, taking pictures of Yoshida standing on first after her bases-loaded single.

Yoshida is the first woman to play professionally in the United States since Ila Borders retired in 2000. The 1.52-meter (5-foot-1), 52-kilogram (115-pound) Yoshida is also the first woman to play pro in two countries.

Yoshida got off to a better start than Borders did in her first game in 1997, when she failed to retire any of the three batters she faced for the Saint Paul Saints of the Northern League.

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