White Sox lose to Australia at world champs

TONY SMITH
Last updated 13:48 17/07/2012

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The New Zealand White Sox have lost 5-1 to arch rivals Australia at the women's world softball championship in Canada.

New Zealand, who have had just one win over the Australian Pride since the late 1990s, scored their only run in the seventh and final inning. Designated player Michal Tangaroa struck a stand-up triple to the leftfield fence to score Lara Andrews from first base.

The White Sox were humbled 9-1, 11-4 and 8-0 in a three-test series in Canberra in February, but they were much more competitive for most of today's game at Whitehorse, Yukon.

Australia had a great start, scoring Leigh Godfrey in the first inning.  But White Sox starting pitcher Taylor Paige-Stewart and her fielders held them out again until the top of the fifth.

The White Sox had been under intense pressure in the fourth frame with Australia loading the bases after a walk to lead-off Jodie Stevenson,  a single by catcher Brenda White and a safe bunt to Jodie Bowering.

With one batter out, the Australians attempted a squeeze play with the runner from third base breaking for home on the pitch.  Batter Stacey McManus hit the ball but White Sox third base Lara Andrews dove to take a superb catch and then relayed the ball back to third for an inning-ending double play.

The move was all the more meritorious because Andrews is usually an outfielder.  It was probably the first squeeze play situation she had faced in her career.

Paige-Stewart pulled off a double play in the top of the fifth, snaring a drive off her own pitching to catch runner Godfrey off first base.

But Australian clean-up hitter Brenda de Blaes punched a hit which the White Sox's left-handed second base fielder Brooke McManus partially stopped but could not secure, allowing Melinda Weaver to score Australia's second run from second base.

New Zealand had a great chance to score in the bottom of the sixth inning when Ellie Cooper slammed a hit through shortstop.  Brooke McManus scampered around the diamond from first base but was taken out in a head-first slide at home plate.

A 2-0 deficit was looking reasonably respectable, given the White Sox's recent history against Australia. But the Kiwis cracked under pressure in the top of the seventh as Australia added three more runs, sparked by an automatic home run over the right-centrefield fence by Verity Long-Droppert.

That prompted White Sox coach Naomi Shaw to yank pitcher Paige-Stewart and replace her with Krysta Hoani. But she lasted just three batters before making way for Auckland-based Australian expatriate Megan Farrell as Australia jumped out to a 5-0 lead.

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Andrews scored on Tangaroa's tonk to leftfield  off Australian relief pitcher Zara Mee  to salvage some Kiwi pride.

Australia had 11 safe hits (three by de Blaes) to New Zealand's four through Tangaroa, Cooper,  Gettins and centrefielder Te Reo Powhiri Matautia .

New Zealand now have a two-win two-loss record in section B . They face 2010 world championship bronze medallists Canada tomorrow before their must-win game against Italy on Thursday.

Italy beat bottom team Mexico 6-0 this morning.

- Fairfax Media

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