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Knuckleballer Eri Yoshida, 18, of the Chico Outlaws en route to a three strike out first inning against the Victoria Seals of the independent Golden League in Victoria, B.C. on Tuesday July 27, 2010. The game marks the "Knuckleball Princess"' first road start this season, making her the first woman in baseball history to pitch professionally in three different countries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arnold Lim

ARNOLD LIM/The Canadian Press

It's back to the drawing board for the Knuckle Princess.

Japanese knuckleballer Eri Yoshida was staked to an 11-0 lead before she took the mound Sunday, but struggled in 1 1-3 innings of work as her Chico Outlaws eventually pulled out a 16-13 win over the Calgary Vipers in Golden League play.

"She didn't have it today, so we had to battle," said Chico manager Garry Templeton.

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Yoshida gave up six earned runs on five hits, including a three-run home run to Julio Ramirez. She also walked one batter and hit two others.

Following the game, the 18-year-old sidearm knuckleballer from Yokahama took a break from signing autographs to speak with reporters through interpreter Kayoko Ohira.

"She's still far away from her first win and cannot achieve that goal right now because what she has to do is practise more knuckleballs," Ohira said. "She wants to win as soon as possible."

Yoshida (0-3, 12.68 earned-run average) also had a rough outing in Chico's 12-6 loss to the Victoria Seals on Tuesday, when she lasted just 2 1-3 innings.

Chico catcher Robby Alcombrack, who went 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs and four RBIs on Sunday said Yoshida will get into the win column soon.

"We're going to get her there," Alcombrack said. "She's going to get that five innings here sooner or later and she's going to get that win. She's getting better."

In order for her to succeed, Alcombrack said that Yoshida has to work on fine-tuning her signature pitch.

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"She just needs to throw harder and realize that when she tries to float it, it's not effective."

At the plate, the pint-sized Yoshida - listed at five-foot-one, 115 pounds - laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the first inning before driving in teammate Anthony Manuel in the second on a fielder's choice. It was her second RBI of the season.

"She's really happy because she felt like she did her own part on the team," Ohira said.

Yoshida was safe at first on the play because of a throwing error, but showed her inexperience and indecision on the base paths and was thrown out at second.

Although Yoshida's appearance in Victoria - her Canadian debut -attracted a record sellout of 4,753 fans, the crowd in Calgary was just slightly above the Vipers' season average of 1,715.

Among the 1,759 in attendance were several Japanese fans out to cheer on Yoshida.

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Chifumi Suzuki, who relocated from Tokyo to Calgary four years ago, attended her first game in the 10-team independent Golden League solely to see Yoshida.

"She's very popular, so I wanted to see how she's doing and I just want to cheer," said Suzuki. "She just needs more experience and to practise more."

Other baseball fans out on Sunday weren't so sure.

"I'm not sure about women in men's baseball," said fan Dale Baird, adding she might be better used as a reliever.

Templeton said all options have been considered for Yoshida.

"It has to be in the right situation for her," said Templeton, who played in the major leagues with St. Louis, San Diego and the New York Mets. "What we try to do is put her in a situation where she has a chance to succeed and that's as a starter. I think later, as the season progresses, we'll give her that opportunity (in relief)."

Yoshida is adapting to life in North America and has even picked up a few English phrases along the way.

"I will do my best," said Yoshida, who lists Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield as her favourite player and a source of inspiration.

Despite the language barrier, she has the support of her teammates.

"She really wants to win," said Alcombrack, "and it's going to happen soon."

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